A number of long-time American peace advocates, including myself, have issued a "global call to conscience" against the U.S. war in Iraq and offer a concrete program for forcing the American occupation to end.
We cannot justify any further squandering of young lives, tax dollars and moral reputation on the slaughter we have unleashed, and would like to challenge America to debate withdrawal.
The recent article by senior AlterNet editor Lakshmi Chaudhry, in my view, would take us in exactly the opposite direction. The closely reasoned article reveals a powerful bias toward continuing the war and occupation if the alternative is U.S. withdrawal. Her first priority, rhetorically, is to "bring the soldiers home," but it turns out they will be staying until others are sent (from Europe?) or there is a "democratic and stable Iraq." This is a formula for aggression with a human face.
Does Chaudhry favour members of Congress voting no on Bush's $80 billion supplemental for Iraq, coming to the floor in a few weeks? The article doesn't say, but the implication is that a no vote would be "irresponsible." If the anti-war elements of the Democratic party wake up and call for withdrawal, would that be irresponsible, too?
Should the U.S. anti-war movement be urging our European counterparts to reverse their resistance and demand that their governments send troops to join a multinational force in Iraq? That's the suggestion of Chaudhry's analysis.
The implication is that U.S. "reconstruction" efforts can somehow be improved without first ending the occupation. Chaudhry doesn't see that the occupation itself is the chief cause of the insurgency and that the upcoming elections are the cause of the impending civil war.
Nor does she note the ominous chorus of national security experts predicting that the occupation and war will take seven, 10, even 30 years to "break the back" of the insurgents. As one who spent 10 years actively opposing the Vietnam War, I see all the signs of another long, depressing, shameful quagmire.
The author's framing runs the risk of leaving American troops there, continuing the occupation until the Iraqis learn what is good for them.
Whatever international assistance is possible, except for reconstruction aid, will most likely arrive when the U.S. privately signals that it has decided to withdraw.
In exchange for ending the occupation, the U.S. may seek guarantees that the insurgents will not strike at other countries and that Iraqi crude will still be available. But it's hard to guarantee a red carpet for defeated occupying powers.
Throughout Chaudhry's analysis runs the superpower assumption that the United States is in charge of deciding whether to stay or leave, and on what terms. But another scenario is more likely: the real choice is to carry out a planned withdrawal or be driven out because the insurgents shatter the U.S.-supported Iraqi security forces.
The majority of Americans who believe the war is a "mistake" are being told by Chaudhry that it would be a bigger mistake for the mistake to end. Already, one-third of Americans, at least 40 million people, support withdrawal yet are completely unrepresented in politics and public debate. They are not irresponsible isolationists, but simply Americans who know you don't send your children to die for a mistake, you don't throw good money after bad, and above all, you don't tarnish your good name by becoming torturers.
The real question is not whether it is irresponsible to call for the total end of of the occupation that has caused the present war, but whether there is any point at which Chaudhry and others like her would agree that continuing the war is no longer worth the cost in lives, taxes and moral character. If not now, when?
Tom Hayden is a long-time social activist and author of several books, including The Lost Gospel Of The Earth. Tom Hayden is a long-time social activist and author of several books, including The Lost Gospel Of The Earth.