Sunday, September 25, 2005


No. Not some troops; all troops

Today Buzzflash has linked Juan Cole's "Why we Have to get the Troops Out of Iraq," which makes clear that Cole now favors the removal of all U.S. ground troops.

I was very surprised and disappointed last week when I read that Cole was favoring our continued presence in Iraq. Perhaps I missed this declaration somewhere in his latest post on troop withdrawal, which by the title seems so forceful, but I did not see it. What I saw was the belabored use of the phrase "ground troops." Only if you were a very careful reader or already knew his position would you realize that he is not in fact advocating complete withdrawal. I find this, well ... annoying, to say the least.

This is Cole's actual position—

... what I propose is giving the new Iraqi army close air support of a sort that would allow it to face down conventional military attacks by armed guerrillas marching on the Green Zone. There are now about 3000 Iraqi army troops that could and would fight in such a battle, and US air support would ensure decisive victories. The point of the US air forces and special ops is simply to support the Iraqi army; the special ops would have to be there to rescue any US crews that were shot down. The air bases could be in Kuwait in the south and in Kurdistan in the north. They would not be permanent.

Jeez! Have I fallen into a time warp? "We'll just give air support. Leave the fighting on the ground to the Vietnamese. After all, it's their war."

The problem with Cole and much of the Democratic Party is that they tacitly accept Colin Powell's supposed admonition to Bush, the so-called "Pottery Barn rule"—"you break it, you pay for it." Let's not get into whether Pottery Barn actually has such a rule. The point is that we here envision some store manager in the sky who will either see cash on the counter or take our case to the authorities. Oh please, sir! Anything but that!

What then follows is a bunch of cockamamie politicians going on the news to discuss "what the U.S. should do now." What the public hears is "what the U.S. should do now that we've broken it." This concern is subtly advanced as the "moral" position, and it is especially advanced by those who hadn't the slightest concern for "breaking" Iraq in the first place.1

The next step, of course, is to attempt to answer the question by proposing how the war can be fought cheaper, better or smarter. Ultimately then Cole and the Democrats become critics of the war, not because the U.S. attacked a sovereign nation, not because its government lied to its people, not because the U.S. has murdered up to 100,000 Iraqi citizens, but because it wasn't done well.

The presidential-hopefuls among the Democrats in Congress want more troops sent over. They are lying to the American people by suggesting that they have a plan to win the war. Richard Nixon had one too.

Juan Cole wants the ground troops out and the Air Force in. Ground troops will just be around for your "Blackhawk Down" type of situation. Of course the only thing more indiscriminately lethal than American ground troops is American air power. Good plan, Juan.

The U.S. has a moral obligation all right. It has an obligation to cease to kill and to cease to be the cause of killing of Iraqi citizens. Notice that there is no way to somehow "retract" the grief we have already caused. That is now an act of history.

What kind of loonies continue to kill to atone for the killings that they've already caused or committed?


1The justification for continuing the American presence because civil war may break out if we don't is only a guise of the "Pottery Barn rule."

Here's Cole's version—

The bottom line is that Iraq is fractured politically and militarily [because of us] and a precipitate and complete withdrawal of Coalition forces would allow the outbreak of full-blown civil war among armed factions, which in turn would certainly pull in neighbors like Iran and Saudia Arabia. This scenario is not certain, but it is highly likely and the Iraqis I have brought it up with say the same thing. It is a potentiality that must be guarded against, since its consequences would be horrific. Simple withdrawal is not prudent because it does not so guard.

Remember all the destructive potential Iraq had with the WMDs? Notice how the argument takes on the very outline of our excuse for invasion. Plus ça change; plus c'est la même chose. [back]

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