What does it mean to say that we've lost in Iraq?
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Most of us want the U.S. troops out of Iraq. "Out of Iraq, now!" It's what we've heard at protests, and read in thousands of op-eds. This is the simple, isolated point the U.S. anti-war movement has been calling for ever since we invaded. It's what I want too, but that's not all I want. There has always been something about that didn't sit well with me, and it wasn't the equally myopic argument that withdrawing from Iraq would prompt even greater bloodshed.
Why is "Out of Iraq, now!" an impossible, dash-yourself-against-rocks approach to ending the occupation in my opinion? I think it's because it doesn't admit to the breakdown of the American political system that has allowed the invasion of Iraq to happen, or the existence of the American empire that was required to undertake it.
If you bring in these two elements -- that our 18th century political system is on its knees and the reality that there is an enormous empire operating in the name of the United States -- to the debate about Iraq, we might get somewhere. But there's also the issue that "out of Iraq" means a lot more than just leaving it.
And Bush has started alluding to it. A few times recently, I've watched him say that a loss in Iraq would be catastrophic for the United States. He hasn't quite made the connection that we have lost in Iraq, and that this adds up to a looming catastrophe.; just that if we did lose , it would be bad.
It's funny; I read about six or seven essays from the progressive side about Iraq every day, and there is also scant mention of the fact that we've lost, and what losing means. Just that the occupation is horrible and violent and expensive... so we need to get out now.
Jan Frel is AlterNet's senior editor.