Consequences And Camp-Outs
August 12, 2005 - 12:41pm ET
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It strikes me that as Cindy Sheehan continues her vigil outside the gates of the Bush family ranch, her message is getting twisted by two large forces who want to use her courage to their own selfish, narrow ends. In my opinion, neither camp is taking into account what is best for Iraq, the Persian Gulf or the United States.
One force, of course, is the Bush administration. Yesterday, the president used his press conference to align Sheehan with the "Out Now" campaign.
"I also have heard the voices of those saying, 'Pull out now,'" Bush said. "And I've thought about their cry and their sincere desire to reduce the loss of life by pulling our troops out. I just strongly disagree."
"Pulling the troops out would send a terrible signal to the enemy," he said.
The other camp are the "Out Now" voices who are doing everything they can to claim that the families of the soldiers who have fallen in Iraq support immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Iraq. Code Pink , for example, is using its support for Cindy Sheehan to advance its policy position of immediate, unconditional withdrawal.
But if you listen to Sheehan herself, what she says leads to a different policy position. Sheehan believes that this war was waged for oil. It was and it still is.
"I don't believe [Bush's] phony excuses for the war," Cindy told a CBS reporter. "I want him to tell me why my son died." She said, "If he gave the real answer, people in this country would be outraged - if he told people it was to make his buddies rich, that it was about oil."
It was about oil, but not strictly about getting Bush's "buddies" rich (although that has certainly been an outcome). Rather, the war was about establishing a long-term U.S. military presence in a U.S.-friendly Iraq. Iraq, of course, sits on the world's second largest reserves of conventional oil and is located at the geographically most strategic real estate, at the top of energy-rich Persian Gulf.
And that's why immediate withdrawal from Iraq is a massive strategic mistake, even for progressives. Pulling American forces out of Iraq without a viable political structure in Iraq would trigger a real civil war, a massive refugee flow from Iraq, and a destabilization of the entire Persian Gulf region. If the Gulf goes, oil will stop flowing and America will be sent into a tailspin that is in no one's interest.
Indeed, civil war is looming even larger. Yesterday, one of the Shi'ite parties most closely associated with Iran, and backed by one of the strongest militias, called for a Shi'a federal state in the south. That makes it even more clear that if negotiations fail, civil war will come.
That means that the death of Casey Sheehan and the 1,700 other U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq will have been lost not only for nothing, but in the service of a chain of events that has the potential to end the American experiment all together. The Bush administration has already pushed our nation to the brink, and a global economic crisis could push it right over.
Progressives, rather, need to stand not for "Out Now" but for "Peace Now." The needs of peace require smarter diplomacy, security for Iraqis and a massive reconstruction plan executed by Iraqis and international NGOs. We know how to do it. Our diplomats know. Our military knows. Our NGOs know. The civilians at DoD and the White House, however, are forcing deadly, short-sighted decisions down their throats. What needs to happen now is for Congress to stand up for what these experts know.
And they have. That's why the caucus in the House of Representatives is called the "Out Of Iraq Caucus" not the "Out Now Caucus." That's why Congresswoman Lynne Woolsey's legislation calls for Bush to design a viable plan for withdrawal. Progressive members understand that if you want to govern progressively, you have to work in the real, messy world.
These members know that If you want peace, work for peace. But if you want protest, keep screaming "out now." Just understand the consequences.
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