Juan Cole repeats his call for a multinational force to provide security for a US withdrawal:
I am seldom in disagreement with the esteemed Michigan professsor, but in this case I don't think the issue of US "honor" should be given any consideration at all. How on earth can the USA possibly withdraw from Iraq with honor, given all that has happened already? Why should one more day go past while the US agonizes about preserving its "honor"?
The US needs to get out. Its troops are a constant provocation of the local population, stirring insurgency rather than quieting it. They have never developed the kind of local intelligence or even language skills that would allow them to do real counter-insurgency. When hot civil war nearly erupted in February, US troops could not intervene between Sunnis and Shiites anyway, without becoming a party to it. So what good are they in such a crisis? Better to get them out of harm's way. Moreover, the Bush administration is both incompetent and corrupt, and therefore cannot hope actually to accomplish anything good in Iraq. The longer the US is there virtually unilaterally, the worse the final crash and burn is going to be. But the US has a responsibility, having thrown Iraq into civil war, to make the best arrangements it can for the aftermath.
The six neighbors have the highest stakes in Iraq-- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. They should immediately be called to a 6 + 3 meeting with the United States, Britain and the Arab League to begin the work of constituting a post-US multinational force that might hope to keep ethnic and religious militias from marching against one another in the thousands and killing milions.
Exit is easy. Exit with honor will be the hardest thing the United States of America has ever done in its over two centuries of history. Exit without honor will endanger the security of the United States for decades.
The only way the USA can possibly regain any semblance of honor from this sad debacle is through an extremely unlikely package including the following as a minimum:
- complete military withrawal including withdrawal from bases,
- full monetary reparations to the Iraqi people,
- a wholesale apology to the Iraqis, the UN and the global community,
- the arrest and imprisonment of the Bush administration officials and their neo-conservative advisors who orchestrated this mess,
- a pledge by the new US administration (post-Bush) to abandon the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, and the practice of "rendering" detainees to torture regimes,
- US support for the International Criminal Court, and rendering of the above persons to that court,
- disclosure of all information relevant to the invasion,
- closure of Guantanamo Bay and other military gulags.
There is only one alternative "exit with honor" strategy: a US revisionist history, full of lies, such as we have seen far too many times in the past.
I fully agree that a multinational (UN or Arab League or both) force should be ready to fill the vacuum. But US "honor"? Are you kidding me?
US OUT NOW!