Sunday, November 20, 2005

Penalty for Early Withdrawal

I am a liberal. When I voted for President last November, I very nearly wrote in Howard Dean's name on the ballot rather than voting for John Kerry. When I vote for Democratic candidates in local elections, I vote for them on the WFP line. In the last state gubernatorial election, I voted Green.

I protested the war on Iraq on numerous occasions and participated in letter-writing and emailing campaigns to my representatives in Congress. I wrote a letter to the editors of The Village Voice chastising a column for implying that there was unanimous support for the war within the Christian community.

I am opposed to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq or setting an artificial timetable to do so.

Surprised?

Congressional Democrats have once again allowed the Republicans to define the terms of this debate. Apparently there are only two options: stay the course, or cut and run.

But that is as fallacious a choice as the original decision to go to war against Iraq, where Republican hawks bellowed that our options were either full-scale invasion or sit back and do nothing, the result of which, Condi Rice assured us, would be a mushroom cloud over the U.S. Whenever anyone attempted to suggest that there might possibly be a diplomatic solution, the White House would snap, "We tried that."

No, what we tried was to get the U.N. to rubber-stamp our invasion plans based on sketchy evidence that turned out to be completely wrong. That's not diplomacy; diplomacy would have been listening to the concerns and objections of other countries.

The U.N., of course, is the the organization Republicans love to hate but have to love. As one wag put it, we ignored the U.N. in order to enforce the standard that the U.N. cannot be ignored. Without the U.N. resolutions against Iraq, we could never have gone to war.

And so today apparently we find ourselves at a fork in the Mideast Peace roadmap: declare victory and call it a day, or stay the course.

We cannot leave, not now. We made a promise to the Iraqi people. When it turned out that Saddam Hussein had no unconventional weapons and no ties to al Qaeda, let alone 9/11, Bush tried to argue that the basis for invasion had originally been humanitarian concern for the Iraqi people who suffered under the Baathist regime. But if that were the case, then Bush should have campaigned in 2000 promising a war of liberation for Iraq; after all, they were suffering before 9/11. It also didn't align with his pre-war rhetoric about the urgency of the situation, and it didn't align with the post-invasion reality, where instead of being hailed as heroes and greeted with flowers, we faced a homegrown insurgency.

We cannot declare "victory." If anything, that would be a more ignominious defeat than Vietnam. The entire world knows we have not met our objectives there. We made false allegations against a sovereign nation, toppled a government and brought the place to the brink of civil war. A country which, according to the U.S. State Department in 2001, had zero al Qaeda presence, is now a petri dish for terrorist cells.

This is not to ignore the fact that we have a fledgling government that vaguely resembles a democracy over there, and there's a lot of encouragement to be had by the significant voter participation. That for me is the reason we have to stay. This new government is the country's only hope.

Setting a timetable for withdrawal, as Senator Feingold is proposing, is also a bad choice. The insurgency will simply wait us out.

Neither, however, should we stay the course. There is no course. Frankly, if the options are abandoning the Iraqis to their fate or allowing the present White House ideologues to pursue policies based on fantasies rather than the realities on the ground, everyone might be better off if the troops just came home.

Here, then, is the way to fix this mess:
  • Set a schedule for troop reduction based on the achievement of clearly defined goals, instead of arbitrary timetables.
  • Impeach President Bush for exceeding his authority under the U.S. Constitution; only Congress can declare war, and they did not do so. Congress granted the President the power to use force to "disarm" Saddam of unconventional weapons. But there were no weapons, and therefore nothing to disarm and certainly no Constitutional justification for overthrowing a sovereign, if tyrannical, government. (The Plamegate investigation is about to swallow Cheney.)
  • Move Saddam's trial out of Iraq. One of the basic principles of democracy is the right to due process; Saddam is guilty and deserves what's coming to him, but right now Iraq is not stable enough to give him a fair trial. He should be remanded to the International Court; after all, his crimes were not just against Iraqis.
  • Bush should be tried in the International Court as a war criminal; I'm not saying he's guilty, but if they were to find him innocent it would lend him some much needed credibility in his retirement.
  • Authority for security, reconstruction and suppression of the insurgent revolt should be taken up by the U.N. using a truly international peace-keeping force involving as much Arab participation as possible. An honest case can be made that security of the entire region is at stake, and Iraq's neighbors have a profound self-interest in a successful outcome.
  • All corporate reconstruction contracts should be canceled and the bidding process should be opened up internationally. The U.N. should manage these contracts with the highest degree of transparency to demonstrate a commitment to real reform.
  • Reconstruction projects should focus first on infrastructure to make the daily lives of average Iraqis better, in addition to working with the new government to establish healthcare and education systems.
  • The United States should pay the majority share of reconstruction and security costs as a means of reparation. The Bush tax cuts should be repealed; corporations should be subject to a 15% flat tax on profits, there should be a 10% national gas tax, and the estate tax should be adjusted to 5% on amounts over $1 million.

14 comments:

matt said...

for the most part i agree with your ideas here, but i wonder -- do you really think there's any chance any of it will happen? i'll hope right along with you, but it sure seems an unlikely path of events.

Andy said...

I suspect you are correct. Most likely we will wait a while longer -- a few months, a year -- and then Bush will in fact declare "victory" regardless of the situation and bring us out. Then Iraq will go to hell and he will blame the Iraqis.

little-cicero said...

I suspect that most of your "ideas" are simply meant to break from the status quo for the sake of soiling the image of the president.

Be honest...you know that being tried for war crimes would not "lend credibility" to the President, it would lend him the image of a war criminal. You know that by repealing the tax cuts you would be reversing the economic recovery and making Bush 2 look like Bush 2 in doing so. You know that Haliburton is the only contractor that is willing and able to carry out the job of Iraq, and even they are not particularly willing to do so (How well do you think the government pays versus an American Corporation for construction contracts?)

By your surprising main point in this post, it can be confirmed that you are one smart liberal, but with that said, I can infer that you are one crafty liberal as well!

Jess said...

LC: Halliburton is the only contractor willing and able to carry out the work in Iraq? Do you make this crap up yourself or are you just buying into someone else's lies?

Try reading a newspaper. From the start of the closed process that shoveled money at Halliburton, other contractors with vast experience in the region and in working in dangerous conditions cried foul because they never had a chance to bid for the work.

As for how the government pays, it pays very well. In fact, private companies would never tolerate the screwing we're enduring from Halliburton. Oh, for the record, I'm a very well paid lawyer who owns his own real estate and pays plenty in taxes. With that said, Bush's economic plans are crap. He gives away money to the mega-rich at the expense of people who can't afford it. At the same time, Bush and his cronies spend money recklessly. It's bad enough that the GOP has become a home for right-wing bigots, but it's also abandoned its one former saving grace, fiscal conservatism.

I make a lot more money than many, and I recognize my obligation to others in this society who aren't so fortunate. Yes, I've worked hard for what I have, but the tax dollars I pay fund a system that allows me to have this success. One goes hand in hand with the other. At the same time, I don't need George Bush pissing away my money on poor fiscal policies. The man failed at every business he ever attempted, and now he's applying that same fiscal ineptitude to government.

Back to your misrepresentations: Disagreeing with ideas is fine--for example, I don't think a US President standing trial for war crimes is something I'd want to see--but at least have the decency to ground your arguments in facts, as Andy endeavors to do. Don't just stop by to vent because you don't like what someone says. I don't do that to your blog, despite having taken a look at it. Why must you do it here? If you have a real contribution, fine, but have some respect and maturity.

Andy said...

Actually LC, there's good reason to think that the Bush tax cuts delayed and hampered the economic recovery. A major part of our present woes stem from the fact that our foreign investors aren't convinced we can pay our debts and are worried about the future value of the dollar.

little-cicero said...

"Despite allegations of cronyism, the company's contracts in Iraq are much less profitable than its core energy business. They are expected to have generated more than $13 billion in sales by the time they start to expire in 2006, but most offer low margins — less than 2% on average in 2003 and just 1.4% this year for the logistics work." -Wikipedia, not the best source, but at least it uses facts

Jess, you are right, I didn't support myself with facts, but your hostility seems hardly necessary. You have read my blog...I always support myself on there, but this is Andy's blog, where I come to Andy for answers to my inquiries through his well articulated arguments. What are the other contractors you speak of? That we don't know their names illustrates the problem with your argument...They may have had the expertise, but they did not have the size necessary to carry out the task of rebuilding a country the size of California. The point of my argument was, Halliburton was not anxious to recieve these contracts... they may be benefitting, but who's to say they would not benefit had they never been given the contracts. As for respect and maturity, I have both. I am not the one lashing out at the opposition here! In my comment to Andy, the most offensive thing I said was that he was crafty! I would suggest that you take a look in the mirror before insulting my character as you have done. Thank you for visiting my blog, please come again, and, if I therin abuse the truth, leave a comment setting me straight with the facts to prove the contrary! I love respectful disaggreement, which is why I go to this blog, but not when it gets personal.

little-cicero said...

The only thing restraining the effects of these tax cuts is the current spending of the Bush administration. I, as a fiscal conservative, am more genuinely disappointed in this president's big government tendencies, but supply side economics have proved effective in history. I don't see, in the least, how tax cuts can hurt the economy, Andy! They may hurt the government budget, but the private sector would fail were the current tax levels higher amid this economic downturn. Maybe you can write a post called "How Taxes are Good for Businesses" I would like very much to read that! (sardonic tone implied!)

Andy said...

LC, sometimes you make it too easy:

Despite allegations of cronyism, the company's contracts in Iraq are much less profitable than its core energy business. Well, that only proves that Halliburton overcharges its domestic customers even more than it does the Iraqis. Do you actually read the news or just GOP.com?

What are the other contractors you speak of? That we don't know their names illustrates the problem with your argument No, the fact that YOU can't think of any other contractors illustrates the problem with your argument.

supply side economics have proved effective in history Uhhh...? No. Supply side economics are a pipe dream.

little-cicero said...

I have never read GOP.com. My news sources are clearly displayed on my blogroll, and the source of the given excerpt was Wikipedia...not a good source, but very factual and unbias.
You are trying to turn around these statistics, but they clearly suggest that Haliburton is not making out like a bandit on this war.

If the fact that I know of no other capable and large scale contractors is a problem, why don't you set me straight...that's all I ask!

Well, I also ask that you consider the cause of the economic boom of the 1990s. It was Reagonomics, which were eventually cut short by the 2001 recession which was caused by inflated interest and tax rates from the Greenspan "glory years" of the Clinton Administration. I happen to believe that there was also an economic cycle concerning the technology revolution, but in any event, supply side economics encouraged businesses to prosper during the late 80s and early 90s.

Luke said...

Andy, your bulleted list is the campaign promises I wished someone had come up with in the last election.

Hurrah! Andy for president!

Steve said...

The course in Iraq is tough. The situation in Iraq is the responsibility of both political parties in the United States. Neither party did the due deligence that was needed in the run up to the war. I don't believe that you can put the blame securely on President Bush.

I think that is what sickens me the most about the reality we have with. We are arguing about how we got there and not what we are doing there. WE ARE THERE. That is the reality. Whether good or bad, impeachable or not, the war is our responsibility.

President Bush may sincerely believe the things he has said regarding the war. I doubt it but maybe. My fear is though, we are revisiting the Holy Wars (Crusades) of years past. Those were seen as noble by the ones who started them but enslaved a people in the end.

For those of us who are Christians and of a more liberal strip, it does feel at times we are on the outside looking in. Hopefully, that will not be the case but my heart tells me I would rather live Micah 6:8- "...to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with (my) God.", than to just say it, like many from the current administration and politicians in general.

So living on the outside of the political mess of Washington may not be a bad place.

Andy said...

There is plenty of blame to go around, that is for sure. But I disagree that we should just say "what's done is done" and move on. Questioning how and why we found ourselves in Iraq is continuing to reveal how the American public was misled into supporting this war in the first place. Incontrovertible proof as to whether this distortion was deliberate is, I'm certain, coming in the near future.

The discussion is pertinent because an administration that would take our nation to war and put our soldiers in harm's way under false pretenses -- either deliberately or through incompetence -- is an administration that should not be trusted with anything else. It is an error of the profoundest nature.

Correction will require a two-part solution: making good our promise to the Iraqi people and repairing the damage we have done to their nation's infrastructure, and dealing with the ineptitude or criminality of the Government that got us here, either by voting them out or sending them to prison. We are in no moral position to go exporting democracy abroad if we don't hold our leaders -- on both sides of the aisle -- accountable for their mistakes.

Steve said...

Believe me I understand why the discussion is occurring. My personal belief though is that it is too late. This discussion should have occurred 2-3 years ago in the run up to the war.

The problem was NO ONE had a backbone. It was like the blind leading the blind. The public opinion polls showed Americans were interested in getting Saddam. Polls drove the administration and Congress to forsake their sworn duty and plunge the U.S. into the situation we currently face.

Is there a smoking gun? I don't know. Will someone be able to ask "What did the President know and when did he know it?" I doubt it. My bet is that President Bush will survive to the end of his term. His legacy is sealed domestically with his two Supreme Court appointments. There are no do-overs for those guys. They are on the court whether Bush is impeached or not.

The last 4+ years have been very unnerving. It has been a bitter and difficult time within the U.S. I don't know the answers but I believe they start at the ballot box.

The problem I have is that I can't vote for the Democrats just because I dislike the Republicans. I am glad you acknowledged that both parties are to blame for the mess we are in.

The question for me is who is representing you and I? Are we really left with a system that is ran by the rich? The reality is that the "common man/woman" can't get a seat in Congress anymore.

What are we to do?

DJRainDog said...

Steve raises the bigger, harder questions, I think, which need to spring out of the discussion of frankly, any of the major issues currently facing Americans, both at home and abroad. I'm a bit of an extremist (albeit a fairly quiet one), and my answer is "revolution". I love the Declaration of Independence, and I've written before (can't be bothered to find the posting just now) about how I believe that Americans have become (inexplicably, considering how oppressed many are) fat and lazy and forgetful of their history. Few things would please me better than an angry mob with shovels, pitchforks, axes, torches (or their modern equivalent) outside the White House and Congress. It'll never happen, though, and I don't think the next adminstration will do anything to ameliorate the situation; I'm pretty resigned to my eventual emigration, along with, hopefully, the vast majority of the nation's brains and talent. Welcome to Rome. If I'm still here, God help me, I plan on being VERY drunk when the next generation of barbarians arrives.