Keep Our Troops There, Now!

November 7, 2006

(This was written for http://www.vibewire.net.au in September 2005. As such, my views may have altered as the insurgency gathers popular support in the face of the occupying forces’ inability to offer security and basic living standards. In other words, CUT AND RUN CUT AND RUN OH JESUS CUT AND RUN, RUN FOR THE HILLS, RUN FOR STARBUCKS, JUST RUN RUN RUN. Just kidding.)

Early 2003, and millions of people the world over found themselves marching in the streets, many of them for the first time in their lives, united in their rage at a war the United Nations would not endorse. History has taught us what we already knew: No weapons of mass destructions. Of course, there was lots of oil, and lots of contracts for Halliburton, but no WMD.

Yet as much momentary satisfaction as the phrase ‘I told you so’ can provide, it can’t turn back time. I, like many others, was just as disgusted with governments prepared to follow the neo-conservative line, and send troops, not to mention their tax payer’s money, to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Any political commentators worth their weight in salt predicted the quagmire that would remain for the US and it’s at best lap-dog, at worst stupid allies, bogged down trying to force democracy upon a land that had never had it.

The event, as it happens, is proving just as difficult as the most pessimistic suggested it would. Foreign fighters/terrorists/jihadists flood in across Iraq’s porous borders, and the carnage continues. The ‘collateral damage’ inflicted by the invading armies has been surpassed in terms of pure numbers by murderous thugs intent on sewing the seeds of religious hatred; not merely against the infidels, but between the different sects within Iraq. Despite the protestations of US officials, civil war looks decidedly more likely than successful elections. Even the Saudi’s are expressing their worry that the Iranians, the Turks and whoever else may yet be dragged into a wider regional conflict.

But strangely, many of the people who called for restraint in the use of military action, in favour of peace, now call for the troops to be withdrawn, with one outcome; no peace. It may at first seem the logical continuation; to at first oppose war and then continue to oppose foreign occupation, but the only reasonable option is to keep foreign troops there until some semblance of semi-functioning state remains. UN troops may be more desirable for all parties, but at the moment, it’s not happening. Many argue that it’s the very presence of foreign troops(re; non-Muslim, as many jihadists within Iraq are not Iraqi citizens) within Iraq that leads to the continued mayhem. Yet it’s unlikely that the mayhem that would be left behind after a hasty withdrawal would look any better for those Iraqis that simply want to live in peace. The choice, at the moment, remains choosing the lesser of two evils. And the puppet government installed, the same one entirely reliant on the alleged supremacy of US military might for its mandate to rule, remains the one with the best intentions, regardless of its shortcomings and lack of ability, for the moment, to answer back to its master.

“Regardless of what the international community thinks on whether it was right or wrong to overthrow Saddam (Hussein), we can’t turn our backs on the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi population who want to see freedom, democracy and prosperity”.

Unlike Blair, who now seeks the removal of British troops early next year, Downer has spelled it out correctly. Unlike Howard, George Bush’s presidency may yet be ended by the ‘new Vietnam.’ But unfortunately the voters that may decide his fate will do so for the wrong reasons. They will do so because US soldiers are dying, not because Iraqis are. It is harsh, but the mothers that go on TV denouncing the war in Iraq should have spent this energy convincing their sons, or daughters, not to join the sanctioned killing team to start with. Similarly, point scoring populist politicians in all ‘allied’ countries have no right whatsoever to call for troop withdrawal if they themselves lacked the courage to speak against it when it mattered most.

I don’t know if I’ve ever agreed with Alexander Downer, and whether I will in the future, but he is right when he says that ‘we’ (the liberal government that committed the crime of invasion, not the populace) can’t turn our back on the people of Iraq. Of course, the government would love to withdraw, as would many Republicans, but that would be a political faux-pas on the grandest scale.

To conclude, those that call for the withdrawal of foreign troop with no credible alternative, and no suggestion of how to create a functioning state or three, show no compassion for the people of Iraq. More people will die, and those that called for the troops to be removed will have blood on their hands. Not as much as Cheney, Wolfowitz or Rumsfeld, but they will be semi-responsible for the mushrooming mess that needs fixing, not desertion, at the point when it most requires assistance.

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