Calls Multiply for U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

by Thalif Deen (IPS, 19 July 2003)

The United States military debacle in Iraq is triggering calls for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, who are dying at an average of about one soldier per day in what has turned out to be a growing urban guerrilla war.

A bitter pill for many people in the United States is that the U.S. government had no legitimate right to invade Iraq, says Norman Solomon, executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy

Solomon, who is co-author of the recently-published 'Target Iraq', says the proper course of action remains the same, regardless of how many U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq. The United States should immediately withdraw all of its troops from Iraq, he told IPS.

The withdrawal of American troops should, if possible, occur in tandem with a U.N. peacekeeping force authorised by the Security Council, he added.

The call for a U.S. troop withdrawal has also come from a senior U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential aspirant John Kerry, who said: We need to get the sense of American occupation over with. We need to protect our troops. And that means that pride should not prevent this administration (of Pres. George W. Bush) from going to the United Nations and doing what they should have done in the first place.

Kerry, one of the few U.S. Senators who fought in the Vietnam war, said he had warned Bush not to rush into a war. And I said very clearly, winning the war was not what was difficult, it's winning the peace.

The Bush administration signalled early this week that it may return to the United Nations for a new resolution to raise a multinational peacekeeping force to police and stabilise Iraq, thereby paving the way for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The proposed move was also meant, among other things, to appease countries such as France, Germany, India and Pakistan who say they are willing to provide troops only for a U.N. authorised multinational force in Iraq.

If the United States agrees to such a force, it will also dilute Washington's authority as an occupying power in Iraq. But how much of political power and military authority Washington is willing to concede to the United Nations remains to be seen.

The 22-day war, which began in mid-March, was followed by the fall of Baghdad in early April. On May 1, Bush formally declared the war over.

But still by Thursday, the total death toll had reached 147, equalling the number of U.S. soldiers who died in the 1991 Gulf War.

At a press conference in Baghdad early this week, the newly-appointed U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, contradicted his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when he described the attacks on American forces as a classic guerrilla-type campaign.

Abizaid, an Arabic-speaking U.S. citizen of Lebanese origin, warned that the only way to contain the growing insurrection is to pour in fresh troops for a long stay in Iraq. It's a low-intensity conflict, in our doctrinal terms, but it's war, however, he said.

Abizaid said the level of resistance is getting more organised. It is learning. It is adapting... And we've got to adapt to their tactics, techniques and procedures.

Last month, Rumsfeld not only refused to admit a parallel between Iraq and Vietnam but also dismissed the Iraqi resistance as too unorganised to be dubbed a guerrilla war.

Michael Ratner, president of the New-York based Centre for Constitutional Rights, told IPS that the United States is paying the consequences for its unilateral war against Iraq. It is an occupying force with absolutely no legitimacy in Iraq despite the fig-leaf of a U.N. resolution.

Ratner said it was obvious to everyone, including the Iraqi people, that the United States has installed a puppet government in Baghdad and that this war was always about hegemony, power and oil.

The Iraqi people will never tolerate U.S. troops. Nor will U.N. troops alone make the difference, he warned. Ratner said the situation would be better if the administration of the country is genuinely in the hands of the United Nations.

But even in that case, the Iraqi people must be allowed to govern themselves. The United States should get out now, and turn the whole mess over to the United Nations, Ratner said.

He also warned that Iraq is fast becoming the next Afghanistan - except the United States is now the occupiers as the Russians were in Afghanistan.

There is no way for the United States to win this war, he cautioned. The U.S. forces are a magnet attracting fighters from the entire region. The United States is in it deep and getting deeper.

Francis A. Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, says that foreign troops should stay out of Iraq for any reason whatsoever -- with or without another Security Council resolution.

Otherwise, they too will become targets of attack from an indigenous Iraqi resistance movement to an occupation force that is actively aiding and abetting the US/UK war of aggression against Iraq for oil, he said.

Boyle, author of the forthcoming 'Destroying World Order: U.S. Imperialism Towards the Middle East Before and After Sep. 11', said Iraq should immediately be placed under the direct control and supervision of the U.N. Security Council and a real U.N. peacekeeping force should be deployed to Iraq under the control of the Security Council.

Additionally, Boyle told IPS, both U.S. and British military occupation forces should be removed from Iraq posthaste.

Paul Bremer (the highest U.S. civilian administrator in Baghdad) and his Iraqi puppet council should be replaced by a U.N. Transitional Authority reporting directly to the Security Council, he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he said, has disqualified himself as an accomplice to the U.S./UK aggression.

Solomon was equally critical of Bremer and the hand-picked Iraqi leaders whose ostensible democracy in Iraq was a fraud.

While the response of Iraqis to a U.N. force would range from open arms to hostile firing of weaponry, he said, a U.N.-run temporary peacekeeping force would be tolerated much more widely than the current occupiers are -- provided that the United States and Britain were not exercising authority over that force or the future of Iraq.

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