Erik Leaver

Midwest City Fights Back Against Iran War-Mongering

When the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was released noting that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the council moved into action. Unanimously, it passed a resolution ensuring that no preemptive military attack by the United States against Iran would take place.

Surprised you didn't hear about this courageous act? That's because it happened in the town of Gary, Ind., not in our nation's capitol.

Organized by the Northwest Indiana Coalition Against the Iraq War and introduced by Councilman Charles Hughes, the City of Gary has passed the most common-sense strategy to deal with Iran. The resolution called for Congress to:

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What Happens After Bush Vetoes the Iraq Spending Bill?

The showdown over Iraq that's been brewing since the November elections will finally come to a head this week as Congress sends a war-spending bill to President Bush. Though the bill authorizes $100 billion for the war, Bush has rejected its October deadline for beginning the withdrawal of combat troops, with the goal of bringing combat troops home by April 2008, and has promised to use his veto -- his second-ever use of this power -- to kill it.

On Jan. 13, during his weekly radio address, Bush challenged those who disagreed with him to offer their own plan for Iraq. Led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Congress met Bush's challenge to come up with an alternative policy.

But instead of seeking the dialogue he asked for in his own radio address, Bush and the Republicans went on the attack, calling the bill "defeatist" and "a cut and run" strategy. The truth is that the measure offers a change of course, not a 180-degree reversal. If Bush and Republicans can't agree to a plan as moderate as the one passed this week, then they really do want a war with no end.

The legislation sets a date to start rolling back Bush's escalation of 30,000 troops and calls for bringing home the rest of the combat troops. Instead of leaving the void that many of the war's bitter-enders predict, the bill would reposition roughly 20,000 to 60,000 troops for counterterrorism missions, protecting diplomats and training Iraqi troops. Finally, the measure sets benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet in order to continue receiving U.S. financial assistance.

These proposals mirror much of what was contained in the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report released last November. They are also endorsed by prominent members of the military. Writing in support of the bill this week along with five other flag officers, Maj. Gen. Mel Montano, USANG, Ret. noted, "Supporting the Iraq Supplemental Bill not only reflects the thinking of the Iraq Study Group but puts teeth to the phrase 'supporting the troops.'"

The American public also backs the proposal. A mid-April CBS poll found that 57 percent of the public thinks that the "United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq sometime in 2008."

But if Bush follows through with his threatened veto, the next steps for Congress are unclear. At this time, the leadership doesn't have the votes to override the veto; they would come up 17 votes short in the Senate and would fail by more than 70 votes in the House. Yet, congressional Democrats are reluctant to sign another blank check for the war.

One alternative floated by Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., would be to fund the war for just two or three months. Another option would be to pass similar withdrawal language with other "must pass" bills, including the defense authorization, defense appropriations and the other Iraq spending bill for the 2008 fiscal year. But unless the dynamics change between Bush and Congress, we'll just see a repeat of this same game over and over again.

Grassroots groups and coalitions, such as CodePink, United for Peace and Justice, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and MoveOn.org, are using all of these votes to put the pressure on members in Washington and at home. In Murtha's scenario, each vote gives them the chance to organize against those opposed to bringing the troops home.

The downside of that process is that it exacerbates one of the major hurdles to changing the course -- the fact that the focus on politics has caused the effects of the policy to be overlooked and led many Republicans to circle the wagons.

The reality is that the ongoing escalation causes massive bloodshed every day in Iraq. The construction of a walled city in Baghdad is meeting with considerable resistance among locals. Daily attacks are rising -- on Monday, nine U.S. soldiers and at least 60 Iraqis lost their lives. Bush's policies in Iraq have led to the kind of human tragedy that the nation saw in the shootings at Virginia Tech, except multiplied by three every single day.

Yet, Bush still is seeking a military "victory." He has actively been seeking a "war czar" to coordinate the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Washington Post reported that at least three four-star generals have turned down the job. In the same article, Carlos Pascual, former State Department coordinator of Iraq reconstruction, noted that, by looking for a czar, the president was once again headed in the wrong direction. "An individual can't fix a failed policy," he said.

After Bush's veto, progressives in Congress need to remind their colleagues of the failed policies and push for stronger legislation. If the president is unwilling to take the moderate compromise on the table now, it is clear that more drastic measures will be needed. As each vote on the war happens, those opposed to the occupation of Iraq need to push for a full withdrawal of troops, closing the permanent bases, setting aside funds for reconstruction, and a commitment to real regional diplomacy.

That's a strategy that can keep Democrats united by moving them slowly towards the correct policy of a full and total withdrawal from Iraq, while driving a wedge between the White House and congressional Republicans, who by mid-summer won't be able to deny that the White House's latest policy tweak has failed.

No End In Sight

While the nation mourns the 2,000th U.S. combat death in Iraq, instead of looking for ways to plan an exit strategy, Congress is finalizing another payment of $50 billion to continue fighting the war.

The dynamics of the fighting between the resistance and the U.S., and the horrific human costs that are being exacted, are unlikely to change in the near term as the Bush administration remains stubbornly committed to occupying Iraq. And both parts of the administration's purported plan, democratization and putting Iraqis in charge of their own security, are failing because of the continued resistance to U.S. occupation.

It's clear that the situation is only getting worse. Instead of helping make Iraq safer and more stable, U.S. troops add to the violence. As long as U.S. troops remain in Iraq, the resistance -- and the violence -- will flourish. Suicide attack rates have doubled since 2004, the number of resistance attacks per month have doubled in 2005 and the U.S. Army National Guard has been losing more soldiers per months than at any other time during the war.

The impact on the people of Iraq has also been staggering. Over 27,000 Iraqi civilians have died in the war and at least 3,000 Iraqi soldiers have been killed so far. And Iraqis still live today without adequate supplies of water or electricity, without sewage treatment plants or access to jobs.

On top of these human costs, the financial costs are soaring as well. Before the war started, administration officials argued that the total cost would be $50 billion. But the latest spending will lift the tab to $250 billion, bringing the average yearly spending to $86 billion. This amounts to every man, woman and child in the U.S. sending the government a check for $840 to pay for the bill so far.

Congress and the Pentagon have fallen down on the job of keeping tabs on the money being spent. In late September the Government Accountability Office issued a report concluding, "neither [the Department of Defense] nor Congress ... can reliably know how much the war is costing and details on how appropriated funds are being spent." At a time where our nation is running a deficit and money is urgently needed for emergency relief and reconstruction, we cannot afford to waste funds.

While Congress pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to re-open no-bid reconstruction contracts given during the first days after hurricane Katrina hit, such scrutiny has not been taken for reconstruction in Iraq even after a joint Senate-House report was released in June documenting an extra $1.4 billion in "questionable" and "unsupported" expenditures by Halliburton's KBR subsidiary operating in Iraq.

With the latest $50 billion installment, Congress will have approved the fifth "emergency" spending package to date. This is the second package in 2005 alone. Labeling this money as "emergency" funds is convenient as these funds do not have to be offset by other programs in the regular budget. But with the Iraq war inching towards its third year the government should be able to plan for anticipated costs and stop pretending that the expense is unexpected.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News this past June, "Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years." If that's the case, the $250 billion spent to date is just a drop in the bucket. Based on a 10-year war, some experts predict the tab to total $700 billion. And those estimates don't include the medical bill the Veteran's Affairs office will be paying. Already 14,000 troops have been wounded, many requiring long-term care.

With the loss of 2,000 soldiers, a rising deficit, cuts threatened to domestic programs, and no end in sight to this war, adding $50 billion to "stay the course" in Iraq is an outrage. We must honor the sacrifices made so far by setting an exit strategy and bringing the troops home.

Operation Homecoming

"There is an old military doctrine called the First Rule of Holes: If you find yourself stuck in one, stop digging." -- The late Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, U.S. Navy
The invasion, occupation, and continuing war in Iraq has cost the lives of more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers. Thousands more have been physically and emotionally scarred. Iraqis have suffered in even larger numbers. The BBC reports that nearly 25,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives and their country has been shattered by violence and continues to languish. Cities such as Fallujah, population 300,000, have been virtually destroyed.

Ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the only way to move closer to peace and reconstruction. U.S. and coalition troops are both the cause of and the magnet for the violence in Iraq, not its solution. A goal that would help both the troops currently in Iraq and the Iraqi people would be to bring the troops home by January 2006.

Setting a date will transform the dynamics in Iraq. Iraqis will start to realize that they are in control, not the U.S., and this will give them hope that they will be an independent nation with the responsibility to create their nation on their own terms.

Ending the occupation

The U.S. operates out of approximately 50 locations, including 14 "enduring bases" in Iraq with unabashed names like "Camp Slayer," "Forward Operating Base Steel Dragon" and "Camp Headhunter." Iraqis have on their soil 150,000 U.S. soldiers, an additional 30,000 coalition troops, and 20,000 U.S. military contractors who conduct 12,000 or more patrols each week.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi resistance has grown larger and stronger. In November 2003 the Pentagon estimated that there were about 5,000 Iraqi resistance fighters. Today, estimates range from 16,000 to 40,000 fighters with about 200,000 supporters. The continuing presence of U.S. troops has strengthened, not weakened, the resistance. 

With the withdrawal of the occupation forces and the resulting end of the Iraqi structures supporting those forces, the major target for resistance attacks will disappear.

Iraq's best chance

January's elections were an important first step toward democracy, but Iraqis still have little oversight over U.S. operations, which affect Iraqi security, natural resources, reconstruction and the economy. The elections appear to have deepened Iraq's sectarian divisions between the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds. These divisions stalled the formation of the government and are slowing the writing of a new constitution. Politicians who are seen as collaborating with the U.S. increasingly are targeted by insurgents.

Having Iraqis in charge of their own security is a goal that the Bush administration and the peace movement can agree upon. But that can only happen in a truly sovereign nation. The police and military forces the U.S. is trying to create in Iraq have failed to provide security for the Iraqi people because they are fighting in a war that puts anyone associated with the U.S. occupation at great risk.

At the same time, soldiers and police officers lack training, and with unemployment in Iraq ranging between 30 and 70 percent, many Iraqi soldiers are loyal only to the paycheck they receive. More importantly, Iraqi security forces cannot succeed as long as the U.S. is leading a war on the ground in Iraq, as it is unclear who the security forces are fighting for--the U.S. or a nascent Iraqi government with no real power or popular support.

What will happen when U.S. troops are withdrawn? No one can say with any certainty. But it is certain that if Washington continues to "stay the course," U.S. troops will continue to die, and they will continue to kill. And Iraq's reconstruction will remain stalled.

It is likely that the withdrawal of U.S. troops would lead to the collapse of at least some parts of the current government, but some of its institutions--including the police, the military, and other security agencies--could survive under new leadership untainted by association with the U.S. occupation.

Without an outside enemy occupying the country, it is also possible that the kind of secular nationalism long dominant in Iraq would again prevail as the most influential political force in the emerging Iraqi polity, replacing the fundamentalist tendencies currently on the rise among Iraqis facing the desperation of occupation, repression, and growing impoverishment.

It is unlikely that the violence will completely disappear with the end of the occupation, or that the Iraqi military can rebuild itself instantly after U.S. troops are withdrawn. As a result, there should be plans for providing temporary peacekeeping or security assistance if Iraq requests it.

Temporary on-the-ground security assistance cannot be imposed by U.S. (or U.S.-led coalition) forces. Nor can an international peace force function safely if it is perceived as colluding with an occupying force.

Only a truly multilateral force can be credible to the Iraqi people. For example, a combination of United Nations blue-helmet peacekeepers and temporary forces accountable to the Arab League and/or the Organization of the Islamic Conference could provide international legitimacy as well as regional accountability. The effect would be to reduce regional tensions and encourage neighboring countries to provide support throughout Iraq's reconstruction process.

A plan for withdrawal

Once a date for troop withdrawal has been announced, the following steps can facilitate phasing out U.S. involvement and building peace and reconstruction:

  1. Reduce number of U.S. troops and end offensive operations . As a first step to withdrawal, the U.S. should declare an immediate cease-fire and reduce the number of troops deployed in Iraq. Continuing offensive operations will only escalate the violence and make Iraq less secure and less safe. The U.S. should pull troops out of major cities and shift troop strength to guarding the borders to stem the flow of foreign fighters and money used to fund the resistance. If Iraqi security forces need help maintaining order, they can invite in outside forces.


  2. Declare that the U.S. will not maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq. Congress needs to affirm its commitment to a responsible withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq. A congressional resolution clarifying that the U.S. has no plan to control Iraq's oil, to establish permanent military bases in Iraq, or to suppress Muslims, would deprive insurgents of their central organizing message. Without such a resolution, Iraqis will assume that the U.S. intends to make the occupation a permanent feature of Iraqi life.


  3. Hand over the restoration of services to Iraqis. The U.S. government and its contractors have failed to restore public safety, public services,  strengthen institutions, or provide jobs. By giving Iraqis control over reconstruction funds, more Iraqis will get jobs and projects will be better targeted to the needs of Iraqis. Lowering the unemployment rate will weaken insurgency recruitment efforts.


  4. Put the brakes on fraud, waste, and abuse. Lawmakers should clamp down on the rampant war profiteering that has caused widespread waste, fraud, and abuse. To do this, the U.S. must stop awarding no-bid contracts and open-ended, "cost-plus," multi-billion dollar contracts such as those awarded to Halliburton and Bechtel, and increase oversight over the military and its contractors.


  5. Make reparations. The United States owes a massive financial debt to Iraq. Over time, the obligation must be honored to repay Iraq for the collapse of their economy as a result of the economic sanctions of 1990-2003 and for the damage of the 2003-2005 invasion and occupation. The United States must also follow through on promises of reconstruction funds, beyond the small amount so far released.


  6. Enter into negotiations. As with any guerrilla war, the Iraqi resistance is unlikely to be defeated by military means. Political and diplomatic solutions are the keys to ending the violence. Recent news reports indicate that some discussions between insurgent groups and the U.S. military have occurred. But even more important than negotiations with the U.S. is a dialogue between the insurgents and newly elected Iraqi leaders.


Looking Forward

All scenarios in today's war-ravaged Iraq are risky. Maintaining the U.S. occupation in Iraq, with U.S. troops killing and dying in Iraq, violates U.S. and international law, the U.N. Charter, and the Geneva Conventions. Clearly this is not the way forward.

A January 2005 Zogby poll found that 82 percent of Sunnis and 69 percent of Shiites favor U.S. withdrawal either immediately or after an elected government is in place. How withdrawal is accomplished will be our legacy. What we propose is that that legacy be based on giving the Iraqis true control over their political, economic, and military conditions.

Say No to Bases

A year ago, President Bush boldly said: "Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation and neither does America." Yet Congress is posed to finalize the president's $82 billion request for the Iraq war that includes a half-billion dollars for permanent military bases and another half-billion for building the world's largest embassy. Despite the president's assurances, the United States is preparing for a lengthy stay in Iraq.

Open-ended deployment in Iraq is bad news for the brave soldiers fighting the war and their families at home. And adding permanent facilities will actually decrease their security as they present a powerful recruiting tool for insurgent groups.

As the U.S. presence has escalated, so too has insurgent recruitment.

In November 2003, there were an estimated 5,000 insurgents. Today there are an estimated 18,000 insurgents and Iraqi officials estimate up to 200,000 additional supporters. The overwhelming common element between the 43 insurgent groups is resentment about the U.S. military presence.

Without context, spending a billion dollars on new facilities seems rather insignificant given that the United States has spent more than $200 billion on the Iraq war so far. But the extent of the U.S. occupation in Iraq is often overlooked. Currently, the United States operates out of about 50 locations including 14 "enduring bases" in Iraq.

That's a huge presence in a country the size of California.

Adding new and larger facilities will serve as a daily reminder that Iraq is under a foreign military occupation. The U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia was Osama bin Laden's chief recruiting tool there, and the same dynamic appears to be working for Iraq's insurgents.

While Bush has been extremely vocal about promoting democracy for Iraqis, this new construction is decidedly undemocratic. There has been little role for Iraqis in approving U.S. plans for adding new facilities. Building these facilities sends exactly the wrong message about democracy to the Iraqi people, especially as the new Iraqi government is falling into place.

A January 2005 Zogby poll in Iraq found that 82 percent of Sunnis and 69 percent of Shiites favor U.S. withdrawal either immediately or after an elected government is in place. A clear majority of Iraqi voters interviewed in exit polls after the Jan. 30 elections cited their desire to see an end to the military occupation as a major impetus for voting. Building permanent bases directly violates the will of these Iraqis.

The construction of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq also raises serious questions about the footprints our nation is leaving in Iraq. The embassy will be located on 104 acres and will house 1,020 staff and 500 guards. That would make it the world's largest embassy.

More important than its size, however, is its predicted political strength. Commanding nearly $20 billion in reconstruction funds to be doled out and with advisers in every sector of Iraq's government, its bulk would leave no doubt the United States has long-term interests there.

It's also unclear who in Iraq has the authority to negotiate the construction of permanent facilities. The new government would seem to be in charge. Yet to date there's no formal agreement on the terms in which the United States can operate in a democratic Iraq. Money spent on permanent facilities without a formal agreement with the Iraqi government could go down the toilet if the United States is asked to leave.

Ironically, as Congress is ramping up bases in Iraq, it's working on a round of base closures both in the United States and in allied countries across the globe. Again, this only serves to reinforce the notion that we need these troops somewhere else, namely Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee this past February that, "we have no intention, at the present time, of putting permanent bases in Iraq." A wiser policy would be ruling out any possibility that the United States will build permanent bases. This would be a big step toward a fully sovereign and democratic Iraq. We owe the Iraqi people no less.

Getting Out Of Iraq

As many members of Congress and President George W. Bush’s administration argue that it’s unacceptable to leave Iraq as a failed state, it becomes clearer every day that U.S. operations and policies are fueling violence and instability. It’s time for the government to directly confront the question of how to fulfill U.S. obligations under international law, restore basic security, and responsibly withdraw U.S. forces.

Central to this point, Washington must not simply abandon the Iraqi people to the chaos it has created. But the U.S. needs to accept the fact that continued military occupation by the U.S. will only cause more casualties, foster division in the country, and keep reconstruction from advancing.

In the six months since the transition to Iraqi sovereignty officially got underway on June 28, 2004, the human cost of the U.S. occupation of that country has risen dramatically. U.S. military deaths have topped 1,200. A study published in The Lancet has estimated that 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of war and conditions under occupation. Norwegian researchers, the United Nations, and the Iraqi government recently reported that malnutrition among the youngest children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the U.S.-led invasion of that country. And soaring rates of disease and a crippled health system are threatening to kill more than have died in the aftermath of the war.

This dynamic is unlikely to change in the near term. The Bush administration’s stated two-pronged plan of staging elections and putting Iraqis in charge of their own security is clearly the right objective. But on the ground this is failing for a variety of reasons. Iraqi elections held under U.S. military occupation and under election rules written by the U.S will lack legitimacy both inside and outside Iraq. Furthermore, the lack of UN election experts on the ground, coupled with continued fighting, and the fact that any polling location guarded by U.S. troops will be a military target, means free and fair elections can’t take place as scheduled in January.

Iraqis need to be in charge of their own security. But the Iraqi police and National Guard have largely failed to provide security for the Iraqi people and the situation appears to be only worsening. Iraq’s security forces are fighting in a war that puts anyone who is physically near or associated with the U.S. occupation at risk. At the same time, soldiers and police officers lack adequate training. One measure of the problem can be seen in their death toll. Over 1,500 Iraqi security force recruits and 750 Iraqi police officers have been killed. Iraqi security forces can’t succeed as long as the U.S. is leading a war on the ground in Iraq.

As Larry Diamond, who worked as a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, has noted, “There are really no good options,” at this point. But there are better options than the policies being currently pursued. The following five steps would lessen the violence and insecurity in Iraq:

1) Decrease U.S. troops and end offensive operations: As a first step to withdrawal, the U.S. should declare an immediate cease-fire and reduce the number of troops deployed in Iraq. Instead, the Bush administration has done the opposite, increasing the number of troops stationed there by 12,000. Increased offensive operations will only escalate the violence and make Iraq less secure and less safe. The U.S. should pull troops out of major cities so that greater manpower can be directed to guarding the borders to stem the flow of foreign fighters and money being used to fund the resistance. If Iraqi security forces need assistance maintaining order, they have the option of inviting in regional forces, as proposed by Saudi Arabia. They could also reinstate the former Iraqi army, which was well-trained, after purging upper-level Saddam supporters and providing additional counterinsurgency training to deal with the current war. Once implemented, these measures would allow for total withdrawal of U.S. forces.

2) Declare that the U.S. has no intention to maintain a permanent or long-term military presence or bases in Iraq: Congress needs to make clear that it is committed to the principle of responsible withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq. By making this statement through a congressional resolution, the U.S. would openly acknowledge that it has no interest in controlling Middle Eastern oil or in suppressing Muslims, hence depriving insurgents of their central organizing message. Without such a resolution, Iraqis have little reason to believe that our present actions are nothing greater than a plan to establish a long-term military presence in Iraq and make the occupation a permanent feature of Iraqi life.

3) Do more to restore services: Moving control of reconstruction from the Defense Department to the State Department has been a positive step as it removes an agency designed to fight war from the much different task of nation building. But a much stronger statement to the Iraqi people would be to go even further and give Iraqis direct authority over reconstruction funding. The U.S. government and its contractors have failed to restore public services and public safety, strengthen institutions, or provide jobs. Meanwhile, billions of appropriated dollars remain unspent. By giving Iraqis control over reconstruction funds more Iraqis will get jobs and projects will be better targeted to the needs of Iraqis. And lowering the unemployment rate will weaken the potential for recruitment into the insurgency.

4) Postpone national elections and hold elections for provincial governments: Given that war is raging in most of Iraq’s Sunni regions, prospects for free and fair elections in January are dim. Given the reality on the ground, the U.S. should call for a delay of national elections while helping Iraqis hold elections for local governments. Local governments should be given the power so far denied to Iraqis. They need budget oversight and dedicated funding derived from the country's oil exports. Additionally, they need the authority to work with Iraqi ministries to assess local needs, decide which reconstruction efforts should get priority, and deliver services. They would also have an oversight role for expenditures. Once provincial elections are completed, illustrating that the U.S. is willing to cede power, and a guarantee that Sunnis will be included in the political process is in place, national elections will become more viable.

5) Impose conditions on U.S. spending for the Iraq War: To date the U.S. has spent $151 billion on the Iraq War. It’s important to support the troops, but a recent exchange between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the troops illustrated the safety of the troops has not been Washington’s primary concern. Congress should exercise its prerogative in shaping U.S. policy in Iraq by tying a forthcoming supplemental spending bill now rumored to be between $70-100 billion to the previous four points. At the same time, lawmakers should put the brakes on the rampant war profiteering that has caused widespread waste, fraud, and abuse. To do this, the U.S. must stop awarding no-bid contracts and open-ended, “cost-plus,” multi-billion dollar contracts such as those awarded to Halliburton and Bechtel and increase oversight over the military and its contractors. Finally, the U.S. should cancel previously awarded contracts to companies whose workforces don’t have a majority of Iraqis.

The current U.S. approach in Iraq is too costly in human and financial terms to Americans at home, our troops abroad, and to the very people this war was supposed to liberate. More importantly, it isn’t improving Iraq’s stability or security. These five steps represent an ambitious new direction for the United States and for the Iraqi people.

The Iraq Quagmire Deepens

The Bush administration struck Fallujah with 10,000-15,000 U.S. soldiers, starting with gunships indiscriminately raking the city with cannon fire. By the end of the first day, warplanes had carried out some two dozen sorties against the city, and four 500-pound bombs were dropped over Fallujah.

The pageantry of the U.S. elections over the past few weeks hid from the eyes of many Americans the massing of U.S. troops on the outskirts of Fallujah. Nearly 6,500 new U.S. soldiers have been brought into Iraq, raising the troop level to the highest level since the war began. The Brits also repositioned over 800 British troops from the South to Baghdad to allow for greater numbers of U.S. soldiers to head to Fallujah.

The dangers of this escalation are clear as the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, wrote to President George W. Bush last week, “The threat or actual use of force not only risks deepening the sense of alienation of certain communities, but would also reinforce perceptions among the Iraqi population of a continued military occupation.”

These perceptions that Kofi Annan refers to have been reinforced by the high toll ordinary Iraqis have paid in bloodshed. The British medical journal The Lancet recently reported a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study that found there have been 100,000 “excess deaths” of civilians in Iraq since the U.S. invasion began. The Johns Hopkins researchers cited U.S. air strikes on towns and cities as responsible for many of the deaths. Les Roberts, one of the report's authors, told Reuters that, “the use of air power in areas with lots of civilians appears to be killing a lot of women and children. … What we have evidence of is the use of air power in populated urban areas and the bad consequences of it.” The aerial bombings in Fallujah will surely add to the rising death toll of civilians as well as insurgents.

Worse, the attacks will not make Fallujah – nor any other part of Iraq – “safe for democracy.” Imagine if Cincinnati, Ohio, a city of Fallujah’s size, were destroyed ten weeks before the election was to take place. Elections would make little sense in the aftermath of such destruction.

Furthermore, the attacks in Fallujah will spur more violence in surrounding towns, such as Samarra, where more than 30 people were killed this past weekend, making the country less safe and unlikely to be able to hold honest elections in January. But there are three other reasons why the assault on Fallujah is posed to further sink the U.S. in a quagmire with no exit:

1) U.S. attacks are fueling the insurgency. The monthly average of insurgent attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces more than doubled from 1,005 in the eight months prior to the “transition” to Iraqi rule began, to 2,150 in the months since the June 28 "handover." Just as the attacks have increased, the Pentagon has also acknowledged that the number of insurgents is on the rise. In November of 2003, the Pentagon estimated that there were 5,000 Iraqi resistance fighters. In September of this year, the number had risen to 20,000. The British Deputy Commander of the forces in Iraq estimates the resistance may be double that number. The rise is even starker when we factor in the additional 24,000 Iraqi resistance fighters who have been detained or killed. The implications are enormous – for every insurgent killed, the U.S. is creating at least one more.

2) International support for the war and occupation is eroding further. During the first presidential debates, Bush repeatedly referred to Poland as a valuable member of the “coalition of the willing.” Ironically, soon after, the Polish government announced a reduction in their troops, shrinking the coalition even further. And in recent days Hungary announced that it is pulling out. The Czechs plan to pull out by the end of February, the Dutch by the end of March, and Japan is feeling pressure to withdraw.

At the war’s start, coalition countries represented 19% of the world’s population. Today, the remaining countries with troops on the ground represent only 13.6% of the world’s population.

3) The U.S. plan to train more Iraqi security forces will be at increased risk. The root of the administration’s plan for Iraq is to train Iraqi security forces to lessen the pressure on U.S. forces. However, this war puts anyone who is physically near or associated with a U.S. soldier at risk. Members of Iraq’s security forces are being killed at a higher rate than before the “transition." At least 127 were killed in June and July 2004, raising the total body count since January 2004 to more than 700. Furthermore, putting many of these poorly trained and equipped soldiers in battle will repeat the same mistakes seen in Fallujah last April. Already, National Public Radio has reported that similar defection rates are occurring with one Iraqi battalion of 500 losing 255 soldiers to defection over the weekend.

The consequences of the attack on Fallujah will be enormous. The much more limited siege of Fallujah in April 2004 led to the deaths of over 600 Iraqi civilians. The attack and the likely casualties that U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians will sustain will only reinforce the notion that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the cause of, not the solution to, the violence and the mounting deaths that followed the invasion.

Authorities in Washington have not only misread the “mandate” that the U.S. electorate supposedly gave them on Nov. 2, they have misread the military and political situation in Fallujah and the rest of Iraq. The administration should learn from past mistakes. The mantra of destroying the village to save it didn’t work in Vietnam. Its prospects for success in Iraq won’t be any better.

Top 10 Reasons to Get Out of Iraq

The U.S. occupation of Iraq is the cause of, not the solution to, the violence and the mounting deaths that followed the invasion. During the recent fighting led by Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, as in countless other battles inside Iraq, authorities in Washington have misread the military and political situation. The Bush Administration uses the fighting as justification for the continued presence of foreign military forces. Yet it is precisely the presence of foreign military forces that is a major cause of the instability. Ending the US occupation by bringing the troops home now is a first step toward ending Iraq's nightmare.

Most Iraqis agree. In a poll this past June, 55 percent of Iraqis opposed the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. While Iraqis cheered the overthrow of the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, they didn't sign up for a foreign military occupation as a replacement. Now it is time to let Iraqis themselves choose an alternative. Here are 10 compelling reasons the United States should get out of Iraq.

1) The Human Costs Keep Increasing
On September 7 the death toll of U.S. soldiers reached 1,000. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged that the insurgency is likely to turn even more violent. While the American death toll made headlines across the United States, the mounting number of Iraqi deaths, at least ten times greater, gets scant attention. The U.S. military refuses to monitor or even estimate the number of Iraqi civilian casualties. As Gen. Tommy Franks described the Pentagon's approach earlier in Afghanistan, "We don't do body counts."

2) Iraqis Aren't Better Off
While the removal of the dictator Saddam was a welcome development for many Iraqis, the streets of Baghdad and other cities remain dangerous war zones. Clean water, electricity and even gasoline in this oil-rich country are all in even shorter supply than during the dark years of economic sanctions. Women face new restrictions and new dangers. Democracy, freedom and human rights appear out of reach. And Iraq remains occupied by 160,000 foreign troops, with all of the indignity that military occupation brings.

3) The War Is Bankrupting America
This year's federal budget deficit will reach a new record – $422 billion. The Bush administration's combination of massive spending on the war and tax cuts for the wealthy means less money for social spending. The Administration's fiscal-year 2005 budget request proposes deep cuts in critical domestic programs. It also virtually freezes funding for domestic discretionary programs other than homeland security. Among the programs the Administration seeks to eliminate: grants for low-income schools and family literacy; Community Development Block Grants; Rural Housing and Economic Development; and Arts in Education grants.

4) Halliburton's War Profiteering
The U.S. government's Iraq reconstruction process has cost both Iraqis and Americans. Instead of boosting Iraqi self-determination by granting contracts to experienced Iraqi businesses and working to lower the huge unemployment problem inside Iraq, the U.S. government has favored U.S. firms with strong political ties. Major contracts worth billions of dollars have been awarded with limited or no competition. American auditors and the media have documented numerous cases of fraud, waste and incompetence. The most egregious problems are attributed to Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former firm and the largest recipient of Iraq-related contracts.

5) The "International Coalition" Is Fleeing
The "coalition," always more symbolically than militarily significant, is unraveling. While the impact is felt more at the political than military level, the Bush administration's claim that it is "leading an international coalition" in Iraq is increasingly indefensible. Eight nations have now left the coalition and many other countries have reduced their contingents. Singapore has left only thirty-three soldiers in Iraq out of 191, and Moldova's forces have dwindled to twelve.

6) Recruitment for Al Qaeda Has Accelerated
The war against Iraq is leaving U.S. citizens more vulnerable to terrorist attacks at home and abroad. According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the best-known and most authoritative source of information on global military capabilities and trends, the war in Iraq has accelerated recruitment for Al Qaeda and made the world less safe. It estimates worldwide Al Qaeda membership now at 18,000, with 1,000 active in Iraq. It states that the occupation has become the organization's "potent global recruitment pretext," has divided the United States and Britain from their allies and has weakened the war on terrorism.

7) The War Is Draining First Responders From Our Communities
Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 364,000 Reserve and National Guard troops have been called for military service. This spring alone, 35,000 new Guard troops were sent to Iraq. Their deployment puts a particularly heavy burden on their home communities, because many of them serve as "first responders," including police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. A poll conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that 44 percent of police forces across the nation have lost officers as a result of deployment to Iraq.

8) Torture at Abu Ghraib
The Bush administration claimed that the liberation of Iraqis from the inhumane rule of a dictator was a good-enough reason for taking military action against that country. Now investigations of the U.S. military's torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib has stripped the United States of even that wobbly claim. The Bush Administration has tried to blame a "few bad apples" for the torture, but abuse has been widespread, with more than 300 allegations of abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq or Guantánamo. Many more may exist, in light of the fact that Army investigators revealed in early September at a Congressional hearing that as many as 100 detainees were hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross at the request of the CIA. This was part of a larger strategy by the government, described by Human Rights Watch as "decisions made by the Bush administration to bend, ignore, or cast rules aside."

9) Many Americans Oppose the War
Polls conducted in August 2004 by the CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup and the Pew Research Center showed a great divide in the country: 51 percent believe that "the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over" and 52 percent disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the war. Almost 60 percent believe that President Bush does not "have a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion."

10) No "Sovereignty" Has Been Transferred
The U.S. occupation of Iraq officially ended on June 28, in a secret ceremony in Baghdad. Officially, the Americans handed "full sovereignty" to the Iraqi Interim Government. This was sovereignty in name, not in deed. Not only do 160,000 troops remain to control the streets, but the "100 Orders" of former CPA head Paul Bremer remain to control the economy. Although many thought the "end" of the occupation would also mean the end of the orders, on his last day in Iraq, Bremer simply transferred authority for the orders to the undemocratically appointed interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, who has longtime ties to the CIA.

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