We must get out of Iraq — now

We lost the real battle of Fallujah last week, a little more convincingly than we have lost other battles in the insane war our government is waging in Iraq. That’s not what the headlines said, but it happens to be the truth.

We lost that battle, we have lost this war and we are losing support everywhere across the globe. As a result of this military misadventure, we are dangerously weakening our country.

What’s going on now is far worse than Vietnam and promises far grimmer consequences. We need a massive, nationwide protest movement. And if you don’t start trying to do something about it, who will?

That is the major issue facing us today.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “How can we do anything about this now? George W. Bush has just been re-elected president! Two weeks ago we just finished a long national election campaign, and he won a majority. Didn’t that mean the voters, in record numbers, gave him a blank check?”

Well, yes and no. Nobody can dispute that he won the election. But the fact also is that the true nature of this war was never really addressed. John Kerry never called for us to get out of Iraq, either because he didn’t get it, or because he thought it might be politically risky, or both.

Yes, he criticized the president for starting the war, and for how he waged it. Kerry promised to do better and, in a comment that would have cost him dearly had he won the election, he promised that we would “win.”

There is only one way to win this war, and a man who died long before it started, a crusty old Vermont Republican, U.S. Sen. George Aiken, defined it. In 1966, long before it was clear to most that Vietnam was what it was, he said that President Lyndon Johnson should “declare victory and go home.”

Nobody listened, and the war dragged on another seven years. We don’t have another seven years to waste in Iraq. Let’s face one very harsh fact:

We are now the bad guys. The insurgents, no matter who they are and what they want, are morally in the right. Iraq is their country, not ours. We have no business there. We invaded them for reasons that were either lies or totally wrong. Remember what we were told by our president in March 2003?

He said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he was trying to make a nuclear bomb and he was a direct threat to us. We also were told that the Iraqi people would greet us enthusiastically as liberators, and that transition to democracy would just be a matter of time.

All of this turned out to be not true.

Now we are fighting, as Phil Ochs once sang, in a war we lost before the war began. We cannot beat the insurgents because the insurgents are the Iraqi people. We are the foreign occupiers, and they do not want us there.

When we moved into Fallujah in force, “insurgent” or “rebel” activity flared up elsewhere across the country — in Baghdad, in Mosul, in small towns and villages across the nation we’re spending billions of dollars to occupy.

We haven’t a prayer of putting down resistance, even temporarily. Even if it were possible, we have only 138,000 troops there — not nearly enough.

Naturally, we were counting on assistance from the “good” Iraqis, those democracy-loving souls we liberated. The real story of the battle of Fallujah is how well our Iraqi allies did. They ran away.

That’s right, they ran away. Those who could manage to arrange sudden leaves did; the Pentagon admitted at least 200 others deserted their posts and skedaddled, and so did many freshly trained Iraqi policemen.

Yes, they are pro-American freedom sensations. No wonder their countrymen see them as traitors, collaborating with the occupying powers. We lost the battle of Fallujah. Want proof? Afterward, a U.S. officer told the press that the city was “occupied but not subdued.” The two most wanted figures, the supposed “terror mastermind” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and a religious leader, got away, as always. (Anybody see Osama or Mullah Omar lately?)

Yes, we killed a lot of people, including some infant “terrorists” too, I’m sure, and in the process earned the hatred of vastly more Iraqis.

What we need to do is get out. Not in a chaotic, run-for-the-last helicopter kind of evacuation that marked the fall of South Vietnam, although if we don’t start wising up this may come to that too.

What we need to do, as soon as possible, is arrange to turn Iraq over to an international peacekeeping body, probably the United Nations, which would try to maintain calm and hold some form of elections.

David Bonior, who became somewhat of an authority on Middle East matters during his many years in Congress, suggested dividing Iraq into some kind of federation, with Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite spheres.

What doesn’t make sense is what’s going on now. Even if there were some hope that after years and years Iraqis might be pacified, or “subdued,” we have two other enormous looming military problems — Iran and North Korea.

Everyone knows, in spite of what the propaganda is, that we don’t have enough forces to handle anything but Iraq. We have fewer people in uniform than at any time since 1940. James Fallows, in a superbly researched cover story in this month’s Atlantic Monthly, demonstrates that we have no realistic military option in Iran, which is busily working to acquire nuclear weapons.

North Korea almost certainly already has them. What if North Korea were to make a military move south? What would we do? At the very least, we’d have to reinstate the draft. How many countries can we fight and occupy at once?

Incidentally, this has nothing to do with partisan politics. If George W. Bush doesn’t leave Iraq, he may end his term, as Lyndon Johnson did, hiding in the White House with his party’s next nomination worthless.

So let’s support our troops the way we should, by bringing them home. John Kerry asked the wrong question. It should have been, “How can we ask one more man to die for what is clearly a mistake?” The answer is, we stop.


Once more, was the election stolen? I’m constantly bombarded with e-mail claiming that a vast conspiracy may have stolen the presidential election by tampering with electronic voting machines, etc. It’s true that some odd things happened; one precinct in Ohio recorded 3,000 phantom Bush votes. And nothing would make me happier than discovering that Kerry had really won.

But he didn’t. The people chose Bush by a close but clear margin. I’ve been studying election returns all my life, and this year’s show that in most places across the nation, in red states, blue states, states using all manner of voting systems, Bush slightly increased his share of the vote over 2000.

Interestingly, however, millions of absentee ballots have been counted since the election, and a majority has been for Kerry, reducing Bush’s popular margin by about 300,000 since election night.

This helps bolster my suspicion that the last-minute Osama bin Laden videotape helped seal the deal. Here are the nearly complete national numbers, by the way: Bush defeated Kerry 60,480,957 to 57,123,038.

Nader, who should in future attract no more serious attention than an Ann Arbor street preacher, got 407,409, or about one vote in 300, which is about what my guinea pig would have polled had I let him run.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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