Gulf Politics

October 2004


How the Bush administration's protests against establishing a timetable for the withdrawl of US forces from Iraq put into question the administration's committment to a political settlement in Iraq.

Sen. Kerry has been criticized lately for proposing that the United States should withdraw from Iraq in four years or less. The Bush administration complains that a timetable encourages insurgents to try to make us leave sooner by increasing the level of violence.

By making this argument, the Bush administration is adopting the position that the U.S. forces will stay in Iraq as long as they please, and that there is nothing the Iraqi people can do to make them leave. This position makes it unclear whether the Bush administration is more committed to a military solution or a political solution in Iraq.

In a military solution, our forces continue to fight opposing groups until only those who agree with us are left alive, and then we allow Iraq to hold free elections -- and (surprise!) they elect people we like. Everyone else is dead or in hiding.

In a political solution, we invite all factions to join the legitimate political process and we abide by their decision -- even if the resulting government is hostile to US interests. This is called democracy. Kerry's proposal suggests that opposition forces stop fighting and join the political process and the sooner they do this, the sooner we will leave their country. It gives the opposition an incentive to join in the legitimate political process: it is the best way to get the U.S. "occupying" forces to leave their country soonest, with the least bloodshed.

The trouble is that most people outside the U.S. do not believe that the Bush administration is honestly trying to create a representative democratic government in Iraq. They believe that Bush wants to set up a puppet state in Iraq that will serve our interests at the expense of the Iraqi people. It does not matter whether this is true or not, it only matters whether it is generally believed. For a political solution to be possible, the Iraqi people must be able to believe in it, and they won't until we have regime change here at home.

The single biggest reason why so many people outside of the U.S. disbelieve Bush about Iraq is the appointment of John Negroponte as ambassador to Iraq. He was ambassador to El Salvador in the 1980s when the U.S. sponsored the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua, supported a vicious dictatorship in Honduras and was condemned by the World Court for war crimes in the region. Most political analysts assume his job to be the same in the Persian Gulf as it was in the Gulf of Mexico. He is described as a CIA "closer" -- the person who makes sure that the local politics of a region go the way we want them to go, by whatever means necessary. The method most favored by Negroponte's associates in Central America was political assassination of opposition leaders by "death squads."

President Bush is quite correct in doubting whether a military solution can be accomplished inside of a four year window. I doubt very much whether we could crush all opposition sufficiently in 40 years to ensure that free and open elections would result in a government that would be a sincere ally of the United States. The English have been trying to do this in Ireland for more than 500 years.

Actual Iraqi democracy would elect a government that obeys the will of the people -- not the American people but the Iraqi people. It is very doubtful that elections held in Iraq would result in a government favorable to the U.S. unless the U.S. is generally believed to be leaving them to govern -- not as we think they should but as they see fit.

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