CONSCIENCE AND THE WAR: Withdrawal of All U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq Is Imperative

By Cohen, Stephen F. | CCPA Monitor, June 2007 | Go to article overview
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CONSCIENCE AND THE WAR: Withdrawal of All U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq Is Imperative


Cohen, Stephen F., CCPA Monitor


Unless the United States withdraws its military forces from Iraq in the near future, a war that began as an unnecessary invasion based on deception and predictably grew into a disastrous occupation will go down in history as a terrible crime, if it hasn't already. For Americans of conscience, Iraq has therefore become the paramount moral issue.

Those of us who were against the war even before it began were often disdained, but now, after four years, only the most myopic or callous among its many well-placed supporters can deny the catastrophic consequences. By inspiring legions of anti-American terrorists where there were few, by straining the U.S. military to its breaking point, by alienating traditional and potential allies abroad, by frightening other states into acquiring new weapons and by provoking popular revulsion around the world, the war has undermined Americans' real security. And by already spending more than $400 billion, suffocating other policy initiatives and polarizing the nation, it has prevented the domestic reforms this country urgently needs.

But it is the war's human costs that must be emphasized above all else. The Bush administration and its bipartisan enablers have already squandered more than 3,100 American lives and maimed tens of thousands more for an unworthy and unwinnable military adventure whose declared purpose has changed repeatedly-from capturing Iraq's (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction, to fighting al-Qaeda, to deposing a tyrant, to spreading democracy, and now to countering Iran. As a result, the families of those American victims have been left without even the solace of knowing their sacrifices were not in vain.

Still worse, all innocent lives being equal, is the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe the U.S. war and occupation have wrought in Iraq itself. Since 2003, that society has been decimated. Anywhere between 58,000 and 655,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed, and a great many other bodies have been shattered, not to mention the thousands inhumanely imprisoned and mistreated. Approximately 4 million have been driven in fear from their home-towns and villages, a figure increasing by 50,000 every month, about half those out of the country, and much of Iraq's once modern social and economic infrastructures have been pounded into rubble.

Among the major casualties is Iraq's middle class, a prerequisite of stability, whose professions, prospects, and notable religious tolerance have been all but destroyed, along with many mixed Shiite-Sunni marriages and extended families.

"This," lamented a young Iraqi, "is civilization gone backwards."

The United States is not solely responsible for these tragedies, but it made them possible.

All of these consequences grow steadily worse and will continue to do so. Indeed, events have become so horrific and undeniable that even long-complicit leading figures in both American political parties now speak of "withdrawal"-but, with very few exceptions, not actually a prompt, determined or complete withdrawal. Even at this late date, most of them are merely "symbolic" opponents of the war, content with mustering just enough courage to resist the Bush administration's proposed military "surge" or its hints of expanding the conflict to Iran.

These belated, half-hearted critics give various reasons for opposing a real end to the American occupation, reasons not entirely unlike the justifications given by the Bush administration and its "withdrawal through victory" accomplices. None of their rationalizations, considering the ever-growing disaster, are compelling. In particular:

* They warn that a near-term U.S. exit would result in a failed Iraqi state, plunging that country into violent civil war and chaos and turning it into a "breeding ground" for terrorists. But that has already occurred because of the U.S. invasion. Iraq is already, by any criterion, in the throes of civil war, chaos, and even ethnic cleansing (euphemistically called "sectarian violence"), while the U.

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