Time to Take Off the Rose Colored Glasses and
Bring the Troops Home

The following was published in the New Haven Register on February 7, 2006

by Stanley Heller

How are we doing in Iraq? The rosy view was expressed in Senator Lieberman's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month when he said we're making great progress and that our troops are fighting on the side of 27 million Iraqis against 10,000 terrorists. Later in the month President Bush took heart in the Iraq elections calling them "a landmark day in the history of liberty". He said it, "means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror".

We critics of the Iraq invasion see things differently. We see a country falling apart, plagued by extreme violence, taken over by separatists and religious extremists, and united only in opposition to US troops in their country.

On January 2nd the BBC reported Iraq's oil exports in December fell to their lowest level since the official end of the conflict in 2003. This follows a few days after the announcement that Iraq's biggest oil refinery had to close because truck drivers couldn't be protected from attacks. If after three years even oil can't be safeguarded how can anyone be talking about progress?

The country is literally disintegrating. The Kurdish regions run themselves and as the current National Geographic makes clear are fiercely determined to win total independence. Southern Iraq is run by militias that are agents of Shia religious parties who for decades have been instructed and supported by Iran. The December elections which were to be the crown jewel of Iraqi democracy were won entirely by ethnic and religious parties. The two parties favored by the Bush Administration to bring a secular national identity to Iraq did miserably. The party led by former interim Prime Minister Allawi polled just 8% even though it spent millions on TV ads. Ahmed Chalabi's party did far worse and didn't even get one seat in the parliament. As the journalist Patrick Cockburn put it from Baghdad, "The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-western secular democracy in a united Iraq."

The war was marketed in the US as an effort to defeat terrorism. Yet Iraq which under Saddam's tyranny had no connection to al-Qaeda is now the world capital of terrorist outrages. According to political analyst Rahul Mahajan there have been over 500 suicide bombings in Iraq, the majority in 2005. Nothing like that has happened before in modern history.

Senator Lieberman's estimate that 99.9% of Iraqis support Bush Administration plans for Iraq is little short of fantastic. As Congressman John Murtha pointed out in November, "A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified".

We don't need polls to tell us that the many groups fighting US soldiers have a large degreee of popular support. How else could they keep coming back? In a Washington Post Jan. 2 column about the August death of US soldier Edward Schroeder II, his father related that in his last email his son complained that Marines have to keep going back again and again to secure the same places. Shortly afterwards Schroeder was killed on his fifth mission to clear the city of Haditha.

Unfortunately the Bush-Lieberman-neocon alliance is not prepared to abandon its dream of a Middle East totally compliant to an American imperium. As Nixon responded to defeats in Vietnam by expanding the war into Laos and Cambodia, threats now resound against Syria and Iran. The threat to bomb Iran is the most serious. Without any evidence the U.S. and Israeli governments claim that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and that it must, must be stopped. Some officials in Israel are talking openly about March deadline. That a US-Israeli attack on Iran would surely lead to devestating assaults by Iraqi Shia on US soldiers in Iraq doesn't seem to trouble any of the decision makers.

What must be stopped is this war. Americans are turning solidly against it. 300,000 turned out in DC in September to protest the war and a few weeks later the hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who demonstrated there as part of the Millions More Movement roared to denunciations of the war. Iraq war veterans and Gold Star mothers and fathers are speaking out. Labor unions are passing resolutions against the war right and left. Now it's up to Congress to stand up for our soldiers and refuse to spend another penny on this war and to demand that the troops be brought home right now.

Stanley Heller is on the organizing committee of CT United for Peace, the umbrella group of major CT peace groups. He can be reached at mail@TheStruggle.org