Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Falsehoods and the Iraq War

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Falsehoods and the Iraq War

Article excerpt

Two political conservatives recently had a lot to say about Iraq. The first was Rep. John Murtha, a conservative Democrat and decorated Vietnam War Marine veteran who has served on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee for three decades. He has supported every U.S. war, and he has been one of most hawkish advocates of the war in Iraq, until now. Murtha created a political earthquake when he called for the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq. His words were prophetic in a town usually devoid of prophetic utterances. "It's a flawed policy wrapped in illusion," he said. "The future of our country is at risk."

The speech was a shock to Republicans and Democrats alike, and from one of the last people the anti-war movement would have expected to speak out. But that's just the point. Murtha's impassioned plea wasn't a political statement at all. It was more a cry of agony, born of grief for the sufferings of American soldiers and their families in a brutal war that seems to have no end.

Rep. Murtha frequently visits wounded soldiers, often at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the families of dead American servicemen and women in his home district. He has seen too many broken bodies and lives, too many severed limbs and maimed futures, and too many spouses and children who have lost their beloved partners and needed parents. Thirteen soldiers from his congressional district in southwestern Pennsylvania have died.

Murtha has also been to Iraq and seen how the American occupation has become more the catalyst than the solution to a violent and bloody insurgency. He has seen the truth in Iraq--the warring factions are engaged in a civil war that the occupation is only making worse. Military leaders talk to Murtha, who is extremely well-connected at the Pentagon and with the military in the field. They give him a much grimmer picture of the prospects for success in Iraq than the political (and mostly civilian) architects of the war who repeat tired mantras about "staying the course."

Murtha was criticized for not having a "plan" for American withdrawal. But that also misses the point. He wasn't offering a detailed plan, just an appeal for a fundamental change of American policy. And the Democrats, instead of distancing themselves from Murtha's call for withdrawal, should offer a plan.

A plan for the successful withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq needs three key elements. First, the United States must disavow any plans for permanent military bases and promise to close the bases already built. Second, the United States must give up preferential treatment for American companies in the reconstruction, while continuing necessary and appropriate American aid, allowing the new Iraqi government to make its own decisions about who will rebuild their country. Third, the United States must give up any proprietary interests in Iraq oil profits.

The Bush administration would need to be content with having removed Saddam Hussein from power, which it now claims was the real goal of the invasion. It would have to give up the control over Iraq that the neoconservatives who run American foreign policy have long desired--despite the administration's rhetoric about democracy.

If the administration were to make those clear disclaimers and disavowals, it would finally open up the situation for genuine international participation in securing Iraq's security and reconstruction. …

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