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It is now an easy matter to realize the US must exit Iraq and soon. The complications are formidable; consequences are most serious; missteps could be disastrous. With the mindset as it is on Pennsylvania Avenue, it seems pointless to illustrate the obvious. Still we must try.

Most pundits are at a loss about the concrete steps that might be taken, now and soon on the ground. We were, too, until we read a little-publicized book. A political candidate who runs for president and loses in a landslide against a president later impeached leaves his credibilty with both opponents and supporters behind, not to mention the American public. An obscure low-level operative in the State Department during the Cuban Missile crisis was hidden by the huge shadows cast by John and Robert Kennedy. He later became a professor of history at University of Chicago and president of the Adlai E Stevenson Institute of Foreign Affairs.

These two people have combined to produce an astonishing product: A clear way to exit Iraq in a most orderly way. They speak from the reality and facts of history as well as recognizing the ambience that is Iraq, an ambience woven from historic, ethnic, religious, and political divisions that make up modern Iraq. And, perhaps most important, they get into the details. We ignore what they have to say at great peril. If there is a better plan, we have yet to see it. The Baker commission (bipartisan) may well have it, though its timing for release seems political with probable advantages for Mr. Bush. For example, he can use it as a counter to any plan a Democrat advances or pundits suggest. That way the appearance is that while he is cooperative, he remains, or at least appears to remain, in total control. We would be surprised if he does not already know its contents.

George McGovern and William Polk have pieced together from their own experiences and importantly, experiences of others making history, to chart sequences of actions that have an excellent chance of limiting our losses in Iraq from this point forward. We paraphrase some of their suggestions appearing in "Out of Iraq" (Simon and Schuster) that follow:

"Staying the Course" is not an option and here are some reasons.

  • The US public, hawks, field commanders, soldiers now believe we can never prevail in Iraq. So, step one is to change course.
  • Withdrawing now would reverse the trend of ever- increasing violence in Iraq. We hear otherwise, but just that happened in Vietnam, Algeria, Kenya, Ireland and elsewhere. Mr. Bush may lament that this leaves a home from which Al Qa'ida can launch further attacks. Well, that situation is one he created by war. How can still more war have the opposite effect? It cannot, period. But the Iraqis themselves should, can and will root out foreign-terrorists.
  • By withdrawing now, we stop helping bin Laden--the movement--unite all of Islam in a violent jihad against the Western world.

What Next--Withdrawal Preparations

  • Plan and prepare for a phased withdrawal; shut remote military bases immediately--necessary to show good faith from the get-go.
  • Interim Iraqi government must request short-term services of an international police force to replace the Americans. The force would preferably be drawn from Muslim countries. The US could pay for this group for 2% of the daily cost of the current war and regain some prestige in return.
  • International police activities to be strictly limited to security and to avoid all combat operations. Police equipment to be limited to transport, light trucks, and communications gear. No heavy guns, tanks or armored vehicles allowed. Americans to assist in required transfers.


  • Cease all construction on new military bases.
  • Assist as possible in whatever the interim Iraqi government requests during the actual withdrawal to begin no later than 1 Jan 2007, and be complete, except for advisors and contractors invited to stay on.
  • If requested, provide training for Iraqi public safety personnel. Iraq needs an effective police force to restore public order.
  • Release immediately all prisoners of war. At the same time, discourage the creation of a regular Iraqi army. Previous armies were too often turned on the Iraqi people; this possibility should be prevented. National safety must be ensured in ways that make a standing army un-necessary.
  • Assist in creating a national reconstruction corps.
  • Turn over the Green Zone to the Iraqi government. It has all the earmarks of being a permanent US base. Having a permanent facility in the heart of Baghdad only fuels further insurgency. It could be the last thing to turn over, but not later than Dec 2007.
  • Build, rent of buy housing for an American embassy somewhere outside the Green Zone.
  • Withdraw all mercenaries as they are loose cannons outside "coalition" control.
  • Sweep the country for mines and clean up depleted uranium in artillery shells and their targets.
  • Contribute to rebuilding Iraqi properties damaged or destroyed by war.
  • Demolish the ugly remnants of warfare--including concrete blast walls, fences and the like that came with the occupation.
  • Restore insofar as possible, archeological sites that were razed, paved-over or otherwise destroyed by American action. Iraq is the seed bed of civilization, its cultural heritage must be re-established.
  • Account for the billions of dollars handed over to the Coalition Provisional Authority, CPA, by the UN on the understanding they would be used to help the Iraqi people and be accounted for by an auditor. The CPA went out of existence but never completed the audit.
  • Make reparations to Iraqis who lost family members and property as a result of war. There is precedent for this one after previous wars.
  • Indirectly assist in the growth of civic institutions through international, multinational and nongovernmental organizations. Lawyers, judges, journalists, and a variety of folks employed by society are in very short supply.
  • Provide assistance for Iraqis wishing to be repatriated home.
  • Indicted members of the Hussein regime in American hands should be turned over to the interim government.
  • Allow the interim government to void all existing oil contracts. They need to be re-negotiated or thrown open to fair bidding.
  • Encourage and support UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Food Program.
  • Express public condolences for the large numbers of Iraqis killed, injured, incarcerated, and/or tortured.

Yes, the above program will be costly--roughly the cost of the war so far. But sooner or later, one way or another, these costs will be incurred. The longer we put it off, the higher they will be. In other words, the price of Iraq has doubled, no matter how you slice it.

There is a civil war to be fought, an Iraqi civil war. It is their business. Further, democracy is not a form of government familiar to Iraqi politicians. Forming a stable government in Iraq is not something an outsider can impose. Only Iraqis can realize their self-determination. Islamic nations often go with an Islamic theocracy even though that form of governance has never been very successful over the long haul.

None of this is palatable to the Bush adminstration. That is a given. But wait for a minute, put yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi:

If someone is humiliating you
and another person is lifting you up:

Which are you more likely to shoot at?
Which could influence your thinking / behavior?
Which achieves peaceful resolutions?

This is the essence of the McGovern/Polk plan.

It is high time that the US stopped the bloodshed and the financial hemorrhaging. But if Mr.Bush has his way, it will not happen before 2008, and maybe not then. By 2008 the exit cost will exceed a trillion dollars instead of a mere $500 billion if we begin today. Pelosi and Reid will have to hang tough for our future well-being depends on it.

Instead of trying to commandeer Iraqi oil and profits therefrom for a song, let's bite the bullet and invest the savings in becoming energy independent.

Just think, for the costs committed so far, we could have reached that state already and been done with it.


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