Friends Committee On National Legislation: The first Washington Newsletter of this year outlines the process FCNL believes the administration and Congress should take to withdraw from Iraq. “As the 109th Congress convenes in January, will it “stay the course” and fund the same failed war policies of the past two years, or will it condition funding on the U.S. implementing new policies to de-escalate the violent conflict, to end the occupation and to return Iraq to Iraqis,” writes FCNL. The newsletter will not arrive in your mailbox for several more weeks, but we wanted to give you an advance look at this important article that sets out steps toward withdrawal from Iraq. For regular updates on our Iraq work please visit here.
Free Iraq: The Responsibility Of Withdrawal
The war policies of President Bush present Congress with a paradox: It is unthinkable for the U.S. to leave Iraq as a failed state, yet a continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq may well lead to a failed state.
When the 109th Congress convenes in January, will Congress “stay the course” and fund the same failed war policies of the past two years, or will it condition funding on the U.S.implementing new policies to de-escalate the violent conflict, to end the occupation, and to return Iraq to Iraqis?
To “stay the course” means confronting insurgent violence with greater U.S. violence. The temptation to stay the course stems partly from a denial of the reality that the U.S. preventive war and nation-building experiment in Iraq have failed. “Success” for the U.S. in Iraq is no longer an option, if it ever was. War is not the answer.
Some argue that U.S. responsibility under international law to restore security and protect civilians in Iraq demands that the U.S. military remain and help stabilize the country. In fact, the presence and offensive operations of U.S. troops have become the greatest threats to Iraq’s future. U.S. offensives, including aerial bombings, city sieges (witness Fallujah), and neighborhood sweeps, foster resentment among Iraqis, fuel the insurgency, and threaten civilian lives. Iraqi security forces are attacked more often when U.S. troops are present, and the Green Zone–a barricaded neighborhood housing the interim Iraqi government along side the U.S. embassy–has become a prime target for suicide bombings and mortar attacks.
Arguably, sufficient military force could overcome the insurgency with time. “Sufficient” might mean a U.S. troop strength of a quarter million or more staying for a decade. That will not happen, and, because of the inevitable civilian casualties, it would not be recommendable. To fulfill the moral and legal obligations it has incurred to help rebuild Iraq, the U.S. must now accept its responsibility and withdraw.
U.S. Failing To Meet Its Obligations
The Bush administration continues to claim its experiment in building democracy through war is on track. In fact, since the invasion and occupation nearly two years ago, the U.S. has failed to meet its obligations under international law to restore security, support reconstruction, and return sovereignty to Iraqis. Instead, the occupation has been mired in a long list of missteps, scandals, and abuses. Moreover, any progress made toward a new political order in Iraq has been eclipsed by the surging violence and swelling resentment of many Iraqis.
In the lead up to Iraq’s January 30 elections, the U.S. is now adding 12,000 troops. Pentagon officials have said any future reductions of the total 150,000 U.S. troop force will be “determined by events on the ground.” But recent events on the ground have only escalated the violence.
In February, the White House is expected to send Congress a fourth war “supplemental” spending request, adding an estimated $80 billion-$100 billion to the more than $187 billion already appropriated. The war has cost far more and lasted far longer than the administration estimated in 2003.
The human costs of the war now include 1,300 U.S. troops killed and some 8,000 wounded; an estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths from war and occupation; as many as 100,000 returning U.S. troops in need of mental health care; billions of dollars in Iraqi revenue and reconstruction funds lost due to violence, war-profiteering, and mismanagement of funds by U.S. authorities; and rising anti-U.S. sentiment globally.
Steps Towards Withdrawal
When the President sends his next war supplemental to Congress, legislators should condition any further funding on the U.S. taking clear steps toward the withdrawal of all its troops and bases from Iraq and support for Iraqi-led reconstruction.
Meeting U.S. moral and legal obligations to restore security and rebuild Iraq requires the removal–not build-up–of U.S. forces. FCNL calls on the Administration and Congress to:
* Cease fire: Halt U.S. military actions immediately;
* Declare withdrawal policy: Congress should pass a “leave no bases behind” resolution, declaring that U.S. policy is to withdraw all U.S. forces and bases from Iraq;
* End the occupation: Withdraw immediately U.S. forces from major population centers to remote temporary bases and shift to a limited role of providing border control and assuring Iraq’s territorial integrity until other security forces can take over;
* Support Iraqi sovereignty: Fund Iraqi efforts to re-employ ministry staff, train new police and security forces;
* Nationalize reconstruction: Give Iraqis control over reconstruction funds, terminate contracts with U.S. contractors and turn projects over to Iraqis, and provide transparent accounting of all U.S. contracts;
* Stabilize Iraq: Commit to long-term U.S. financial support for Iraqi-led reconstruction.
While the U.S. cannot fulfill its dual responsibilities to withdraw its forces and support Iraqi rebuilding easily or without cost, these steps could help break the cycle of violence, undercut the insurgency, save lives, and give control of Iraq’s future back to Iraqis.
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