faces an agonizing dilemma in Iraq, a challenge that
seems to confound most Americans. Few want our forces
simply to pack up and run. Fewer still want them to
continue their bloody struggle for years.
imbroglio, a precise presidential announcement could, I
believe, inspire a quick reduction in anti-American
insurgency and permit a complete withdrawal of all U.S.
forces within a year or less.
Here are the
essentials. The president must announce publicly the
date by which the U.S. government will completely end
its Iraqi presence, military and civilian. The statement
must promise in unambiguous, unconditional terms that
within a precise period (I suggest six months) after the
directly-elected new Iraqi government takes office, he
will order the complete evacuation of all U.S. military
forces beyond the normal Marine guard at the U.S.
embassy; all U.S. civilian personnel except for a
diplomatic staff of normal size, and all U.S.
He must also
state that, if the new government wishes any U.S. units
military or civilian to remain beyond the stated limit,
such requests must first be approved by the United
Nations Security Council, a step that will signify
international support if an extension does occur.
Finally, he must promise substantial U.S. financial aid
to help repair the damage done by our troops during the
invasion and since.
In making these
promises, he will respond to grim reality. Iraqis do
not trust U.S. intentions as officially stated. Like
many other people worldwide, they believe U.S. forces
invaded Iraq mainly for Israel and oil, not to bring
freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. They see a
dozen U.S. military bases already built on Iraqi soil
that exude permanence. They hear Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld say on television that U.S. forces will
remain until Iraq is stable and “at peace with all its
neighbors.” The quoted words hint that one of these
days U.S. pressure will force the new Iraq to conclude a
treaty with Israel that will keep Iraqis from supporting
independent statehood for Palestinians. They are
convinced U.S. troops will stay indefinitely, enabling
the U.S. government to exercise dominance in Iraqi
affairs far into the future.
These fears may
be groundless, but even false perceptions can lead to
awful consequences like suicide bombings that are
intended to punish U.S. “occupiers” and the Iraqi
“Quislings” who collaborate with them.
promises should temper insurgency. A recent scholarly
study shows that most suicide bombers are motivated by
fierce hostility to the occupation of their homeland by
foreign troops. When the troops leave, suicide assaults
almost always cease immediately.
Iraq may be the
exception, of course. The U.S. invasion may have
triggered a political avalanche that will have to run
its course. Iraqis, like other people in all lands
everywhere, resent foreign occupation, but the Sunni and
Kurdish minorities also fear oppression if the Shiite
majority gains firm political control. Perhaps civil
strife is inevitable. If so, the departure of U.S.
forces by a date certain could shorten it in a way
merciful to all concerned. Ultimately, Iraqis will have
to solve their own internal conflicts if their nation is
to be truly independent.
There is no easy
answer to the president’s dilemma. The plan just stated
is not risk-free, but I believe it is the best course
available. Even if bloody mayhem continues, the
departure of U.S. troops is essential. They prompt more
terrorism, not less.
Worst of all, our
Iraqi operations already threaten America’s well-being
at home and our capacity for leadership abroad. The war
may already have disabled America for the immediate
future. Our country is only beginning to comprehend the
deadening impact of the war on our civil liberties,
economy, way of life, and the opinion of people
At the least, the
presidential promises will dampen speculation about an
emerging U.S. empire and go far in restoring luster to
the name America. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we
should quickly retrace our steps and return to the high
Paul Findley served as a Representative from Illinois,
1961-83, and is the author of three books on the
Arab-Israeli conflict. He resides in Jacksonville,