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(DV) Riggins: The Unworkable Blueprint of George McGovern and WIlliam Polk







Harper’s Way Out of War: The Unworkable Blueprint
of George McGovern and William Polk  

by Thomas Riggins
November 17, 2006

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The October issue of Harper’s Magazine contains an essay by George McGovern (the Democratic anti-war presidential candidate who ran against Nixon in 1972, he carried one state -- Massachusetts) and William Polk (founder of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago). This essay “The Way Out Of War: A Blueprint For Leaving Iraq Now” is an attempt to give a workable liberal democratic exit strategy to extricate the U.S. from the chaotic mess the Bush Administration has gotten us into in Iraq. Unfortunately the “blueprint” is unworkable and unrealistic.

The author’s state that a “phased withdrawal should begin on or before December 31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by June 30, 2007.” Although the war is already lost and the U.S. (let alone its weak puppet government) has no prospects for pacifying the country, not to speak of even Baghdad, does anyone believe the unrealistic head in the sand Bush is about to start pulling out his troops in less than two months. He could at best make a token effort under this plan but the caveat, “make every effort” leaves room to stay on past the June 30 deadline and hence leaves the withdrawal open ended.

McGovern and Pope respond to the charge that so early an exit would result in chaos and upheaval being left behind in the wake of our withdrawal. They rightly point out that we already have chaos and upheaval and that much of the violence in Iraq is due to our unwanted presence. "We are as powerless to prevent the turmoil that will ensue when we withdraw," they write, "as we have been to stop the insurgency." But, they maintain, we can serve the interests of the Iraqi government (and our own) by "smoothing the edges of conflict" by engaging in a "bridging" strategy "between the occupation and complete independence."

Our peacemakers recommend that the Iraqi government and ourselves follow a six point plan. First the Iraqis should ask for "the temporary services of an international stabilization force" to provide security during and after the exit of the American troops. This is just wishful thinking. No other countries want to take over the mess we have created in Iraq and find themselves the target of the insurgency that drove us out. They know that their services would be anything but "temporary."

The authors think that as soon as the Americans, British and private mercenary forces (basically paid for by U.S. tax payers and actually out numbering the British contingent) leave, the insurgency will have accomplished its aims and will "immediately begin to lose public support. "They claim that the "insurgent gunmen", their term for what the Iraqis may very well be thinking of as "heroic resistant fighters," "would either put down their weapons or become publicly identified as outlaws." This is another bit of wishful thinking. Like most other insurgent and resistance movements they would more than likely become the basis for a new Iraqi government and move to depose the remnants of the American dominated puppet government left behind by the fleeing Americans.

This is even more likely to happen because the second point on the McGovern-Polk blueprint is to eviscerate the already dysfunctional Iraqi army at the disposal of the present so-called Iraqi government (by their own admission not enjoying "complete independence.") "It is not in the interests of Iraq," they maintain,  "to encourage the growth and heavy armament of a reconstituted Iraqi army." Who is going to protect the civilian pro-American civilian government? It must be the "international stabilization force." This force, by the way, they propose to be initially made up of 15,000 troops! After kicking out the Americans with 140 to 150,000 troops, the insurgency will disarm for these 15,000 made up of 3,000 each from five different Islamic countries including Syria! What are the authors smoking?

They do not however propose to disband the Iraqi army completely. They don't want it to be a real army because Iraqi armies have acted badly in the past so it should be turned "into a national reconstruction corps modeled on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers " which can then repair damaged infrastructure. The U.S., by the way, can assist and train this Corps. It seems that we can stick around after all since this is a benign mission, the insurgents will have disarmed themselves, and the temporary international stabilization force will see to it that everything is, well, stable.

The third thing we should do is turn over all our military bases, including ones under construction -- at least 14 "enduring bases" -- to the Iraqis. Others have reported at least four permanent bases are being constructed as it seems the U.S. has plans to be in Iraq for a very long time (no doubt to make sure that the strategic balance in the Middle East vis-à-vis control of the oil remains subject to American power.) Our peacemakers will have to get the Bush administration and the long term planners in the Pentagon to give up on The New American Century before this can happen.

We are also told that, "The Green Zone should be turned over to the Iraqi government no later than December 31, 2007." Since we are supposed to have gotten our troops out by June 30th of 2007, it is unclear how we expect to hang on to the Green Zone for an additional six months.

Step four of the blueprint entails that "America should immediately release all prisoners of war and close its detention centers." Do we have "prisoners of war" or are they "terrorists" and "enemy combatants" and "suspects" that Bush can hold indefinitely now that that pesky medieval holdover from the Magna Carta (habeas corpus) has been done away with?

Let's grant everyone prisoner of war status and immediately release them. "Sorry guys, it was all a big mistake. You can go now, no hard feelings about the water boarding, ok." Are they going to forgive and forget, or, at least a substantial number of them, run off to join the insurgency or the militias in a spirit of revenge if not patriotism. I think we ought to give ourselves a big head start before we release the prisoners just to be on the safe side.

The fifth step in the withdrawal plan deals especially with the large force of mercenaries "euphemistically known as 'Personal Security Detail'." There are about 25,000 of them hired by over thirty different private security "contractors." They will have to go, and they should go, because they are hated by the Iraqis and are basically unanswerable to anyone except their immediate bosses. Since they are all paid for by the American tax payers, "either directly or indirectly," it should be easy enough for the U.S. to get rid of them: "all we need to do is stop payment." This is, for the foreseeable future, a pipe dream. The U.S. is not going to stop payment to the private firms they have contracts with (what type of capitalism is that) and, even more importantly, the many big shots in the U.S. puppet government who have these mercenaries as their body guards don't look forward to having to depend on their fellow country men for their security.

Step six is to remove all the land mines and unexploded ordinance that will be left behind, including shells with (cancer causing) depleted uranium, "where possible." Its too bad a lot of that uranium will hang around killing people for a couple of generations or so but, hey!, that's the cost of freedom. The authors note that this step is dangerous and that is one of the reasons, no doubt, they want to turn it over as fast as possible to "Iraqi labor." Their official reason is that it will provide jobs for the Iraqis.

That is the main plan and the major part of the blueprint. The authors go on for several more pages discussing what they call "second tier" policies to be adopted based on this basic "withdrawal package." We don't have to consider them since the basic "package" is unsound the policies following from it will be likewise. My only remark is that the whole article operates on the assumption that it is the U.S. that will decide the future of Iraqi.

We went to war in Iraq so we could decide its future. Now we must leave, having lost that war and that right. It is the Iraqis and only the Iraqis that have a right to decide the future of their country after the withdrawal. I think most people who have been following this unjustified war do want the U.S. out ASAP, but will also think this is an unworkable and impossible way to do it.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at: pabooks@politicalaffairs.net

Other Articles by Thomas Riggins

* Mutually Assured Dysfunction: David Frum and the American Enterprise Institute
* Against the Grain: Safire's Hollow Musings
* Against the Grain: Kerry and Evil (online)
* The Verala Project and the CIA
* 128,000 Reasons to Defeat Bush