The war in Iraq is becoming more and more vicious.
Attacks on coalition forces have escalated. Americans are now dying at a rate
of over two per day. Iraqi police and militia are suffering major casualties
from the constant attacks. Neither presidential candidate has proposed a way
out of this morass.
Why has the insurgency been growing and becoming more widespread? The population
of almost every country resents being dominated by outsiders. The Iraqis and
their allies are fighting the unbelievers and the occupiers. No one likes to
have foreigners rule their nation, but compounding that concern in Iraq is the
matter of religion. Muslims cannot accept Christian rule.
Although many Iraqis were undoubtedly pleased when Saddam Hussein was deposed,
they are turning increasingly against American soldiers and their allies. As
they see more and more innocent civilians dying from military action – called
by the Pentagon, "collateral damage" – their anger rises. Almost all
Iraqis now want the Americans out of their country.
A Canadian reporter, Scott
Taylor, who had been held captive, was recently released after being shuffled
among various groups. He reported that one group of insurgents was made up of
Ba'athist secular Sunnis who wanted to reclaim the country for the Iraqis. Another
consisted of religious zealots who hate having Christians calling the shots
in Iraq. Those groups and others of various flavors were united in wanting the
Americans out. The principal motivation for the attacks on the U.S. and its
allies is a desire to force the U.S. out of the country.
Bush and Kerry have both said that they want to bring the troops home. At the
same time they claim that our military cannot be pulled out quickly because
Iraq would collapse into chaos. (What is it in now?) But would the violence
get worse or better if American troops left? Almost all the violence so far
has been directed at either the occupying forces or their perceived allies,
the Iraqi militia and police. U.S. troops are obviously a major part of the
problem. Are they also part of the solution? Were the Americans to leave, civil
war might break out; then again, it might not. Nevertheless, if both sides want
the same thing – "Americans go home" – a deal may be possible.
After the election, the president-elect should announce that, if the resistance
fighters stop the violence, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq within three
months. The president or his elected successor should go on to promise that
the U.S. will stop its attacks in the country and will return its forces to
their bases. In other words, the United States should announce a unilateral
If the Iraqis really just want Americans out of their country, they should
welcome the proposal. They have only to stop attacking coalition forces, the
Iraqi police and militia. Apparently, there are several groups fighting against
the American occupation. It may not be possible to get all of them to stop the
violence, but if the violence can be reduced significantly, that would be a
step towards peace and the US exit.
The resistance groups have little to lose by a ceasefire. If the Americans
failed to start moving their troops out, they could, of course, resume their
attacks. If they do agree to cease fighting, violence would decline sharply;
if the president-elect acted swiftly after Nov. 2, the election scheduled for
January could go ahead. Some violence would undoubtedly continue, especially
kidnapping for ransom, which seems to have become a widespread occupation. However,
the police would no longer have to worry as much about being attacked regularly
and could concentrate on the criminal elements. A ceasefire would encourage
recruiting for both the police and the army.
The current interim government in Iraq, made up of many individuals chosen
for their willingness to support the U.S., would undoubtedly oppose the prospect
of a pullout. They would face losing their jobs and perhaps their lives for
having cooperated with the occupation forces. It's a long shot. Nevertheless,
the only way out of this mess is to promise the Iraqi people that, if they stop
the violence, we will go quickly.