Exit Strategy

As we enter the third year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the phrase for this week is ''exit strategy'' -- a euphemism for failure in Iraq, based on a growing awareness (finally) across the political spectrum that the Bush administration's pre-emptive invasion has not only taken vital resources away from the ''war on terror,'' it has made the world a more unstable and dangerous place.

It's not hard to see why the majority of Americans now think the war in Iraq was a colossal mistake, according to just about every major poll taken over the last few months. Every claim the Bush administration used to justify the illegal invasion has turned out to be flat wrong, as the anti-war movement publicly predicted before the war began.

Not only did Iraq not possess WMD, which means Saddam didn't even pose a regional threat, let alone a global one, but there was no al-Qaeda connection or a link to Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. U.S. troops were not greeted as liberators, as those of us familiar with the impact of the Iraqi sanctions argued while supporters of the Rumsfeld doctrine were happy smelling the rosy scenario and gloating over a media-managed removal of a Saddam statue and the ''Mission Accomplished'' landing of President Bush.

Considering the nuclear build-up of North Korea and Iran, one thing is now clear. Iraq was not invaded because it had WMD. Iraq was invaded because it did not have WMD.

Of course, we still have lots of true believers arguing that it would send ''the wrong message'' if the U.S. decides to ''cut and run.'' (It's amazing how war supporters tacitly acknowledge that violence and military action speak for us and yet act surprised when our enemies have something to ''say'' too, with both sides claiming the other only ''understands force.'')

It's the same ol' tired argument used by the ruling elite during the Vietnam War. In fact, when my father touched down at Marble Mountain as a 19-year-old Marine, it was the same year that Howard Zinn published Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, which argued that getting out of Vietnam was the only realistic option. It was the first book to argue for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam.

Then, as now, historical amnesia seems to have reached epidemic proportions, blinding masses of people to the lessons of empire. Ask yourself: Did our occupations of the Phillipines, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and countless other interventions in Southeast Asia and Latin America produce democracy in those places?

As history repeats itself, a new book hitting the shelves in May should be required reading for every American concerned not only about the security of the United States but future prospects for global peace. Anthony Arnove's Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal makes a bulletproof case for why the U.S. should leave Iraq immediately.

Arnove begins by acknowledging that the parallels being drawn between Vietnam and Iraq are not exact, but still significantly similar. ''In both cases, the greatest military power in human history has encountered the limits of its ability to impose its will on a people who do not welcome its intervention. In Iraq, like Vietnam, soldiers themselves have begun to question the rationale for the war given by politicians and daily echoed by the dominant media.''

But, Arnove argues, the stakes are much higher in Iraq. ''Politicians and planners in Washington know that their ability to intervene in other countries will be severely hampered if the United States is forced from Iraq,'' partly explains why the Democratic Party talks about ''winning'' the war -- ''a position that ties it in knots and leaves it incapable of leading any antiwar opposition.''

The first chapter lays out in considerable detail how the war in Iraq was/is a ''war of choice.'' He then goes to provide a realistic picture of the occupation on the ground, as opposed to the lofty rhetoric coming out of the White House. What distinguishes Arnove's analysis from the wishful thinking you hear from war apologists is he actually provides some historical context by looking at the history of all occupations of Iraq; the U.S. was not the first to conquer Iraq, claiming to be its liberator.

Those who thought we would be greeted as liberators apparently weren't aware that Iraq ''has a long tradition of secular nationalism and anti-colonialism that means Iraqis will not quietly accept occupation by a foreign power.'' The last two chapters make the case for immediate withdrawal by essentially observing that is the presence of U.S. troops that is fueling the insurgency.

Arnove's book is a wake-up call to reality and a call to action -- before it's too late -- to stop the expansion of the war into other countries.

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