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NYT Misses Essential Step In Ending the Iraq Occupation

attaboy.jpgThe Sunday New York Times features a half page editorial in which the editorial board finally calls for a planned redeployment of US troops out of the contested areas of Iraq and into surrounding areas including Kuwait and possibly the Kurdish north.

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.
. . .
Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

Although the Time’s editorial page has strongly criticized the President’s policies over many months, this is an important watershed for America’s paper of record, and I urge everyone to read the full editorial. Editorial boards across the country are probably struggling with the same issue and are now more likely to follow the Times’ lead. Moreover, the Times’ statement comes just as we receive more tragic news from Iraq and just before Congressional Democrats are set to reintroduce Iraq withdrawal proposals and court wavering Republicans.

The editors acknowledge coming to their conclusion reluctantly. They doubted the efficacy of the “surge” strategy” last winter and previously advocated other strategies, hoping these would salvage something worthwhile out of the catastophic mess the Bush/Cheney regime created. Today’s editorial, however, abandons those hopes and presents a sobering, mind numbing recitation of how desperate the situation is and how deeply mired the US has become in an impossible quagmire. It then lays out all the complexities that any successful redeployment strategy must confront — the likely increased internal violence and civil war, the dangers of withdrawal to US troops, the potential for regional conflict, the certainty of massive humanitarian crises for millions of refugees — all nightmare scenarios that must be confronted under any plan.

But the Times’ editors make a critical assumption — that the President and Vice President will reverse course and cooperate — and thus ignore the most formidable obstacle that must be overcome before any alternative strategy can even be developed, let alone attempted: the Bush/Cheney regime will vehemently oppose it, undermine it, and if somehow forced, bungle it. This President is simply not intellectually or emotionally capable of accepting the defeat of his central foreign policy without a personal meltdown.

The reason the Iraq catastrophe is called a “quagmire” is because there are no simple or good options for getting out or staying in. Any withdrawal strategy is as fraught with risks as staying. Fashioning a plan that can extract America from its greatest foreign policy blunder ever will require the wisest, most honest and insightful leadership this country can muster. But does anyone seriously believe these qualities reside in the Bush White House?

We’re expecting the people who arrogantly blundered into this disaster, lied about it and continue to be in denial about the mess they’ve made to lead the way out? Do we trust this President’s judgment in making strategic choices, or his honesty in laying out the consequences to the American people? Does anyone seriously believe Dick Cheney would do anything but make matters worse, lie about it, and cover up his behind the scenes manipulations? Is there any reason to have confidence in Condoleeza “no one could have anticipated” Rice, or National Security Advisor Hadley (Cheney’s mole) — or the belligerent (pardon me) neocon in charge of Middle East policy at State, a team whose list of failures now includes destabilizing Lebanon and dismembering Gaza, not to mention strengthening Iran’s strategic position and exacerbating conditions that could lead to regional Sunni vs Shia conflict? This crew has brought havoc wherever they’ve gone.

Even if the President nominally accepted the need for policy change as a result of increasing pressure from his own Party, there is no basis for trusting this President’s word, nor any basis for trusting the competence of his execution even if, through some miracle, he sincerely embraced change. And there can be no doubt whatsoever that Vice President Cheney and his minions throughout the national security apparatus would do everything they could to undermine, sabotage and reverse the new strategy.

The regime has never given the slightest hint that they would accept a fundamentally different strategy, let alone one imposed by its opponents in the reality-based community. That remains true no matter how many Republicans start hedging their bets.

If America is now prepared to end it’s occupation of Iraq and embark on a truly different strategy that does not get the US mired in yet another Middle East military quaqmire, it must face this central truth: The Bush/Cheney neocon vision of imposing US hegemony in the Middle East by force must be rejected, and those who pursued this vision must be systematically removed from their positions. No new strategy can be planned and executed until the Bush/Cheney regime is removed from office, along with the entire neocon national security team that designed, promoted, and implemented the current failed policies.

If we want to end the occupation, we have to start by liberating the White House. A malevolent and delusional crowd, cheered on by frightened warmongers, headed by Dick Cheney and embraced by the befuddled Bush himself, has a stranglehold on America’s national security policy, and they are not going to loosen their grip until forced to do so. The New York Times editorial is a highly important statement, but it is still missing the most essential paragraph. The regime must go.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley