2007 -- Another Year in Iraq; What Are We Going to Do?

Two striking symbols marked the end of 2006 and our relationship to Iraq: Saddam Hussein, the former brutal dictator, was swiftly hung by a lynch mob -- a move that could create more civil war in the long run. Then, in the last day of 2006, the 3,000th American soldier died in action in Iraq -- a bitter reminder of the ongoing and pervasive violence that still grips the country.

There have been reports of Shites celebrating the death of Saddam in Iraq, and President Bush issued a prideful, if muted, statement saying, "Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial. ... Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror." Meanwhile there hasn't been much crowing among Republican politicians or pundits in the states, nor has there been much from the Democratic opposition. The quiet on the part of U.S. leaders on both sides is no surprise given that December marked the deadliest single month, since November of 2004, 25 months ago. Nobody was a big fan of Saddam.

In contrast to the United States, was Britain, where the anti-war wing of the Labour Party was quite vocal as AlterNet's Josh Holland underscores. Meanwhile Tony Blair remained silent, vacationing at Robin Gibb's (of the Bee Gee's) mansion in Florida.

What About Other Guilty Parties?
Providing a bigger picture, Robert Fisk, in his uniquely no-holds-barred way, now that the Butcher of Baghdad is dead, asks the question: What about the other guilty men?

Writes Fisk: "... we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent -- we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib -- and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created."

Can We Get Out?
Despite all the time spent and blood spilled in Iraq, the steps for getting us out of the occupation remain fuzzy to many Americans. Equivocating leaders, misinformation and an inaccurate sense of the factors on the ground make it difficult for the wide range of those disgusted with the war to get behind a clear vision.

But this doesn't have to be the case. We each have a role in the anti-war effort to help debunk some of the fundamental misperceptions among the well-meaning -- those who think we are abandoning principle if we pull out of Iraq.

Juan Cole, the brilliant and persistent critic of U.S. policy in Iraq methodically demolishes the myths and misconceptions about the next steps in Iraq.

The biggest myth is that the United States can still win in Iraq. But as Cole explains, "[T]he establishment of a stable, pro-American, anti-Iranian government with an effective and even-handed army and police force in the near or even medium term ... is frankly ridiculous. The Iraqi 'government' is barely functioning. The parliament was not able to meet in December because it could not attain a quorum. Many key Iraqi politicians live most of the time in London. ... Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki does not control large swathes of the country and could give few orders that had any chance of being obeyed. The U.S. military cannot shore up this government, even with an extra division because the government is divided against itself."

As for Bush's canard that setting a timetable for withdrawal would give a "significant military advantage to the guerrillas fighting U.S. forces ..." -- That assertion makes sense only if there were a prospect that the U.S. could militarily crush the Sunni Arabs. There is no such prospect. The guerrilla war is hotter now than at any time since the U.S. invasion. More Sunni Arabs support it than ever before. It is producing more violent attacks than ever before.

Since we cannot defeat them short of genocide, we have to negotiate with them. And their first and most urgent demand is that the U.S. set a timetable for withdrawal before they will consider coming into the new political system. That is, we should set a timetable in order to turn the Sunni guerrillas from combatants into political negotiating partners. Even Sunni politicians cooperating with the U.S. make this demand. They are disappointed with the lack of movement on the issue."

So What's the Strategy?
It is not altogether clear how the Democrats in Congress are going to move on Iraq. Congressman Joe Biden, in favor of withdrawal, is set to call hearings as the new Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. That could help. Whether the clearly anti-war Speaker Nancy Pelosi can marshal the Democrats around a clear and strong call for withdrawal in the House remains to be seen.

It may be that the already emerging '08 Presidential race will be the best place to showcase opposition and build a broad-based movement around withdrawal. The polls suggest that members of the America public are not ambivalent about the war in Iraq. They want out.

John Edwards has quickly jumped out as the anti-war candidate for '08, saying, "I want our troops out of Iraq." And, "Let's call this McCain surge what it is -- escalation." And he is flexing serious progressive credentials on poverty, global warming and universal health care.

Blogger Taylor Marsh offers her take on Edwards: I sure as hell can't tell you if John Edwards is the man for the Democratic Party in 2008, but I know one thing for sure. He's the first candidate to show up like a real human being and dressed like your average American, while standing amidst the tragedy of a city and region that is still not close to being fixed, among people who have been completely forgotten by the current president and many other Americans who just spent Christmas shopping, eating and drinking in houses that are whole and lives that remain untouched by Katrina or the Iraq war."

Nevertheless, the path to getting the hell out of Iraq is far from clear. AlterNet considers the Iraq occupation, with the hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous destruction, as the foreign policy abomination of our time -- and it could go on and on. Getting out of Iraq, long with universal health care and climate control, are three of the biggest issues on our collective plates as we could ever imagine.

But success on each of them will require more than we have done thus far, much more. On January 27th, United for Peace and Justice is organizing a large-scale anti-war demonstration in D.C. That is one way to work to get out of Iraq. And the complementary Iraq Vets for Peace "Bring Them Home Campaign" needs as much support as we can give it. AlterNet will be keeping you up-to-date on Iraq as we move into 2007. Stay tuned.

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