Saturday, December 23, 2006

Is Iraq getting ready to ask America to leave? / Thoughts on the morality of American withdrawal

"After the invasion, as a Shiite religious revival blossomed, Iraq's clerics saw themselves as the caretakers of the nation's Islamic identity. They were as concerned about American power and ambitions for Iraq as they were about the importation of a decadent Western culture. Many refused to deal with U.S. officials . . . a tactic that reaps immense rewards today from a population that is increasingly disenchanted with the United States.
'There's no necessity to meet the Americans,' said Beirut-based Hamid al-Khafaf, the chief spokesman for Sistani. He added that Sistani favored peaceful resistance to end the U.S. occupation.
. . . Senior Sadr officials have circulated a petition among national lawmakers demanding a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. They have managed to get 131 signatures, nearly half of the parliament, [independent Kurdish legislator Mahmoud] Othman said.
. . . Hakim, he said [Mahdi Army member Ali Hussein], made a fatal mistake by meeting Bush. In today's Iraq, credibility and power are measured by opposition to the United States." [1]

Is Iraq getting ready to ask America to leave? According to the above article and other sources like a September 2006 poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, many Iraqi politicians and apparently a majority of the Iraqi public would like to see America withdraw. (The September poll said that seven in ten Iraqis would like America to leave within a year and six in ten support attacks on coalition forces.) [2]

The petition by the Sadr officials demanding a withdrawal timetable would be a good solid step in this direction. A formal debate and vote by the Iraqi Parliament would be even better. The Parliament could also arrange a national referendum asking the Iraqi people if they wanted America to stay or go. (I had heard of the referendum idea in a reader's letter to the New York Times which I, unfortunately, cannot locate.) Broad-based, peaceful, mass demonstrations could also be helpful. *

If this is what the Iraqis truly want, then the above types of strong unambivalent expressions of discontent could very well lead to a successful outcome, especially since one of America's stated goals has been to give the Iraqis a voice in their newly democratic country.

If the Iraqis asked America to leave, it would also remove much of the America's moral obligation to remain, in my opinion, unless America has somehow manipulated Iraq into taking this position. Though America should still do all it can to help in other ways, considering its initial invasion was the cause of most of the current problems or allowed them to emerge. **

America could conceivably remain in well-defined, seemingly pro-American, areas like Kurdistan or maybe the northern Nineveh area to help protect these areas from attack. (I've read that some of the targeted Iraqi Christians have expressed a desire for a region in the Nineveh area) [3] America's presence in these areas would be purely defensive, however, and only at the request of the people in those areas. Their presence would not be used to stage present or future attacks on the rest of Iraq or the Middle East region, no matter what the cause. ***

* Apparently, the Iraqi prime minister has most of the authority over Iraq's security matters and it's uncertain if Prime Minister Maliki would ever request an American withdrawal. On the other hand, Maliki is just one person and was not directly elected by the people of Iraq. So if the people's directly elected representatives in Parliament and/or the people themselves through a referendum were to formally request an American withdrawal, it would be interesting to see what would happen.

** America might also leave, from a moral perspective (if I can use that word again), if its continued presence was a necessary cause of most of the violence or if its presence was preventing a solution to the violence from being implemented. Though its other obligations would remain.

It's been said that America's continued presence has been the cause of the continuing insurgent and terrorist violence. If an American withdrawal would cause the insurgent-terrorist violence to cease, then America might leave for that reason. However, it's not certain if these two forces would, in fact, cease their violent attacks if America left since it's also been said that the insurgents' and terrorists' goal is not only to cause an American withdrawal, but to foment civil war through attacks on the Shiite majority.
One might also ask if America's withdrawal would cause the insurgents and terrorists to cease their violence, but America's withdrawal would also deny innocent Iraqis needed protection from ongoing sectarian violence, then should America morally remain or withdraw? I don't really have the answer to that. I'm just presenting general alternatives to show that it is not simply a matter of America staying is moral and America withdrawing is immoral or vice-versa.
On that note, America might also exit if it was suffering great hardship. It might take something of a moral hit for placing its own hardship above that of the Iraqis (whose hardship was caused by America's initial invasion, in my opinion), but it would be less of a hit than if America left just because it was tired or fed up with the situation.

*** Sadr has since introduced a law in the Iraqi Parliament that would require U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by the end of August of this year (see Sadr's redeployment plan, 1/23/07.)

[1] The Washington Post. Shiite Clerics' Rivalry Deepens In Fragile Iraq. December 21, 2006.
[2] Program on International Policy Attitudes. The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq. September 27, 2006.
[3] The Associated Press. U.S. Iraqi Christians Seek Help. December 15, 2006.

posted: saturday, december 23, 2006, 3:36 AM ET
update: friday, january 26, 2007, 2:14 PM ET


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