Monday, February 12, 2007
Iraqis Show Us the Door
By Nicholas D. Kristof:
For those like myself who oppose the “surge” in Iraq and seek a timetable for
withdrawal, the hard question is: what happens if all hell breaks loose?
What happens if the removal of U.S. troops leads to large-scale massacres, to a
regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, to Kurdish-Arab-Turkmen fighting in
Kirkuk, to a Turkish invasion of Kurdistan? Conservatives have a right to ask:
why advocate a withdrawal that could lead to genocide in Iraq?
The first part of a response is to doubt President Bush’s premise that a buildup
is necessarily the best way to avoid a cataclysm. Iraqis themselves don’t think
so. On the contrary, one poll last fall found that 78 percent of Iraqis believe
that American troops provoke more violence than they prevent.
Another poll, conducted by the State Department and reported by The Washington
Post, found that nearly three-quarters of Baghdad residents would feel safer if
American forces left Iraq. So if our aim is to avoid catastrophic bloodshed in
Iraq, it may well be that we’re more likely to accomplish that by leaving rather
A second point is that the bloodshed can end only after Shiite leaders make
political concessions to Sunnis, and our presence may be impeding that kind of
political settlement. Once we set a deadline for departure, the Shiite leaders
will look into the abyss — the prospect of Iraq, on their watch, splintering
forever — and that may encourage moves toward a political settlement.
In any case, it doesn’t work when we want to stay in Iraq more than the Iraqis
want us there.
Not only do polls show that Iraqis overwhelmingly want U.S. troops gone within a
year, but Iraqi leaders themselves are cool to Mr. Bush’s surge. “The problem is
not more troops or less troops,” the Iraqi vice president, Adil Abdul Mahdi,
told me over lunch last month in Davos.
We shouldn’t send our troops into harm’s way unless Iraqis are pleading for
them. If we’re the ones begging for the opportunity to shed blood in Baghdad,
it’s time to come home.
There are a few other steps we can take to reduce the chance of large-scale
massacres. David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes
issues, suggests putting the Iraqi government on an “atrocity watch”: warning
Iraqi leaders that they can be prosecuted if Shiite militias and the Iraqi
police slaughter Sunnis with impunity. All this might lead Iraq’s leaders to
restrain their militias.
Then there’s diplomacy: we have to get the help of Iraq’s neighbors, especially
Iran, to pursue our common interest in a stable Iraq (just as we had Iran’s
cooperation five years ago in overthrowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in
Instead we are going down a path of escalation. Two of the Iranian officials
arrested by the U.S. recently were actually in Iraq at the invitation of the
Iraqi government to try to bring stability, Mr. Mahdi told me.
I’ve been asking experts what they think the odds are that the U.S. will strike
Iranian nuclear sites in Mr. Bush’s remaining two years in office. A common
answer is about a 30 percent chance (plus maybe a 20 percent chance that Israel
will strike). If that happened, Iran would make our troops pay a horrendous
price in Iraq and Afghanistan alike.
Speaking of Afghanistan, a thoughtful new report from the Council on Foreign
Relations [pdf file here] notes that Iraq is siphoning off so many resources
that we could end up failing in Afghanistan as well. The report warns that Iraq
is all-consuming and makes it difficult for the U.S. to address other
“U.S. interests in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region can be more
effectively advanced if the United States disengages from Iraq,” the report
declares. “Indeed, the sooner Washington grasps this nettle, the sooner it can
begin to repair the damage that has been done to America’s international
position. Staying longer means more damage and a later start on repair.”
So at the end of the day, genocide is possible in Iraq, but there’s no crystal
ball to tell anyone what will happen if we stay or go. Keeping troops in Iraq
has steadily increased the risk of a bloodbath. The best way to reduce that risk
is, I think, to announce a timetable for withdrawal and to begin a different
kind of surge: of diplomacy.
A majority of Iraqis may well be right in thinking that we are part of the
problem rather than the solution — and maybe a phased withdrawal will nudge
Iraqis back from the brink and make a cataclysm less likely.
by jurassicpork @
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10:20 PM, Eric Forat said...
Hi JP. i
love you but there you lost it... you are writing:
David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues,
suggests putting the Iraqi government on an “atrocity watch” ; ok, but dont you
think the US should be on atrocity watch?
I mean, we invaded them, just like the Germans invaded Poland, France, etc?
aren't they just "resisting" against foreign invaders? do you still think you
are a "former" cow-boy? or are you just as dim-witted as our "president?"
Too bad, I really enjoyed your writing for quite a while, but in the end you are
just another "American" hypocrite...