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The Tentacle


December 29, 2006

No Iraqi Tunnel

Roy Meachum

The big national question now has little to do with the president's brooding response to demands for a change in the approach to his failure in Iraq. His announcement can be expected in days.

As December enters its final weekend the overwhelming fear centers on the possibility this month's toll will set a new high in U.S. casualties, before Sunday midnight rolls around. On this side of the world, few care a fig about the thousands and thousands who have suffered and died as a consequence of American intervention in the region.

In a more just world Washington's leaders would face trial as war criminals for complicity in the blood-baths decimating the Middle East's "innocent and law-abiding," to use a favorite phrase of right-wing conservatives. These victims are guilty only of living in a nation targeted by U.S. politicians and their partners-in-malice, exiles like Ahmed Chalabi.

Depending on which source you accept, Iraqi fatalities run anywhere from 20-fold to a hundred times the rate among Americans and their European allies. Saddam Hussein had less blood on his hands when he faced the court that sentenced him to death.

What has become increasingly apparent, even to the ideologically blind, is that we are in a no-win situation. Gerald Ford's death earlier this week brought dramatically to center stage the last days of the Vietnam War. I agree with those who argue that was a very different situation.

We were trapped in a colonial mind-set, described by the poet of England's empire as "the white man's burden." Rudyard Kipling coined the phrase as the 19th century faded (1899), which makes its invocation in the 21st century even more ridiculous. But that was the rationalization posed by the White House three years ago.

We were ultimately responsible for the world's peace and rule, the administration argued, because our strength endowed America with the moral duty to save Iraqis; as it turned out, the overwhelming majority didn't want us there. Most of those who thought they did backed off as the initial attack turned into occupation. They joined the opposition when confronted by the destruction and deaths that accompanied the invasion.

We remain because of fear that our withdrawal will unleash greater bloodletting, and solely to accommodate a few; our continuing presence allows the few to heap blame on America's head and avoid their responsibility.

As you've read, Sen. John McCain (R., AZ) and his fellow hawks join the military establishment in wanting a "surge," something along the lines of 30,000 additional troops thrown into the battle. Such thinking is blind and self-serving. Nothing could serve the nation's enemies better.

Having refused to listen when former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki suggested no fewer than 300,000 troops were needed to attack Iraq - the actual strength on March 19, 2003, was less than half that number - Senator McCain and his cohorts still ignore General Shinseki's reasoning. It was based on the country's population, not the size of its armed forces. After nearly four years of military quagmire, to his original thinking must be added sizable portions of Iraq's neighbors, especially Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Shiite countries of Iran and Syria.

At this point, only the most devout racists can still believe a few thousand additional Americans can turn the trick, convert inevitable defeat into instant victory. It won't happen. Despite former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's insistent assertions, there was never a light at the end of Vietnam's long tunnel; there can be none in Iraq.

The late President Ford had the uncommon common sense to recognize Rudyard Kipling's wistful well-wishing had no place in the modern world. Perhaps the new faces at the congressional controls will turn to implementing Mr. Ford's philosophy. He pulled the plug on this nation's imperial pretensions during his term.

Staying on in Iraq serves no one except America's enemies; it certainly does not help the people in the Middle East. It damages severely this nation's claim to moral leadership.

Enough, already.



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