We Must Leave Iraq

Why are American soldiers dying in Iraq?

The rationale has shifted as the months turn into years. “Weapons of mass destruction” – Saddam’s nonexistent links to al-Qaeda – the Laurie Mylroie conspiracy theory that links Iraq to every ill under the sun, and then some, held in high esteem by the neocons: all had their day in the sun, and were disproved, discredited, and discarded. Then there was the Andrew Sullivan theory, developed just as an anthrax-laced envelope was delivered to Tom Daschle’s Senate office:

“The terrorists clearly have access to the kind of anthrax that could be used against large numbers of civilians. My hopes yesterday that this was a minor attack seem absurdly naïve in retrospect. So they are warning us and testing us. At this point, it seems to me that a refusal to extend the war to Iraq is not even an option. We have to extend it to Iraq. It is by far the most likely source of this weapon; it is clearly willing to use such weapons in the future; and no war against terrorism of this kind can be won without dealing decisively with the Iraqi threat. We no longer have any choice in the matter. Slowly, incrementally, a Rubicon has been crossed. The terrorists have launched a biological weapon against the United States. They have therefore made biological warfare thinkable and thus repeatable. We once had a doctrine that such a Rubicon would be answered with a nuclear response.”

Gee, if only we’d listened to Excitable Andy and just nuked the heck out of Iraq: think of all the money, and American lives, we would’ve saved! Some 1,300 American soldiers would still be among the living, and the over 17,000 who’ve had their limbs blasted to bits, or their sanity permanently impaired, would have been spared.

And if you’re worried about the moral problem of several million dead Iraqis – killed on account of a wrong, completely air-headed theory – then just relax, because here’s “former” Israeli intelligence agent and current director of the Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook, telling us that it’s okay – even commendable – to kill Iraqi civilians: concern for sparing the innocent is “self-sacrifice,” says the Israeli-born Brook, whose babbling malevolence was barfed up just in time for the Christmas season. Kill! Kill! Kill! In the name of “reason,” of course.

But I digress. The real reason, we’re now told, that Americans must continue to die in Iraq for at least the next year, if not until 2006 and beyond, is to implant “democracy” in that unpromising soil. We all remember the presidential address to the National Endowment for Democracy in which he announced a “global democratic revolution” as the chief objective of American foreign policy – and exiled prudence from the litany of conservative virtues. Now let us recall that bizarre pronouncement – George W. Bush channeling Leon Trotsky – as we contemplate the probable outcome of the Iraqi elections.

As I wrote last year,

“So far, the Shi’ites have stood on the sidelines, waiting for the chance to take advantage of their majority status and impose an Islamic ‘republic’ on the rest of the country.”

Now that moment has come. After fighting off Paul Bremer’s plan to impose a “caucus” system of indirect elections that could be easily manipulated by occupation authorities, the Ayatollah Sistani – spiritual leader of Iraq’s majority Shi’ite population – forced the Americans to agree to national elections, holding out the threat of a fatwa against the occupiers, who would then face a united Shi’ite-Sunni insurgency.

Our great “democratic” achievement to date has been to polarize the country along religious lines and conjure the specter of civil war. With the last Sunni party withdrawing its slate of candidates, and a list headed by the leader of the Iranian-backed SCIRI favored to sweep the upcoming poll, the prediction made in this space on April 14, 2003, is worth recalling:

“Another explosive factor is the role of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), formerly based in Teheran. SCIRI is the only opposition group that ever had cadres inside Iraq; unlike the Iraqi National Congress, SCIRI did not have to be flown to Iraq courtesy of the American taxpayers: they already have troops on the ground, particularly in the south.

“The main political consequence of the war, internally, is to increase Iranian influence: if free elections were held in the southern Shi’a provinces of Iraq, they would undoubtedly usher in some sort of ‘Islamic Republic.’ The effort by the neocons in the administration to install Ahmed Chalabi as the Pentagon’s puppet, far from forestalling this possibility, only makes it a more credible threat to the postwar order. I guess it all comes under the heading of ‘creative destruction‘….”

But there’s nothing creative about the destruction now being unleashed on Iraqi society, as a recent bomb blast aimed at the SCIRI leader killed 12 and injured dozens. (The would-be assassins hoped to get the leader of the party, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, just like they got his brother in the early days of the occupation.) The “democratic” process, applied to Iraq, has brought on a religious civil war pitting Sunni against Shi’ite – and setting both against the Christians.

SCIRI, by the way, is the one exile group that proudly boasted it wouldn’t take a dime of American aid in the run-up to war, and publicly opposed the invasion, warning, even as U.S. troops poured into the country, that they would fight if the Americans tried to stay as “colonizers.” Mr. al-Hakim has said more than once that he wants U.S. troops out.

I wouldn’t get too excited about the reported presence of a “moderate” Shi’ite faction on the Sistani-approved list: chief among those “moderates” is our old friend Ahmed Chalabi, formerly the Pentagon’s favorite Iraqi exile leader, whose links to Iranian intelligence (and access to American secrets) are of great interest to the FBI. Any Shi’ite-dominated government that arises out of this election will be ideologically and spiritually linked to Iran – where SCIRI leaders were given shelter and sustenance during the years of Saddam’s rule.

As Bremer realized from the beginning, “democracy” in Iraq can only lead to theocracy. To impose the “caucus” system, however, was never a real option: it would have meant a full-scale Shi’ite rebellion, and not just the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr, but the Ayatollah Sistani’s followers and the main Shi’ite parties, along with their militias, would have joined the insurgency, or mounted their own.

So much for the “global democratic revolution” in Iraq.

Remind me again why American soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq. Is it so they can hand the fruits of their “victory” over to Iran? Did some kid from Kansas get his arm blown away, and lose half his face, so the mullahs of Iraq could establish an Islamic “republic”?

Oh, look, the Iraqis are having an election – Hurrah! We’re all supposed to be head over heels with joy. But a culture that is mired in the 12th century, that missed the Enlightenment, and was entirely bypassed by the liberal revolutions that swept through Europe and the Americas, if given the chance to exercise the popular will, is bound to create a tyranny. The worst atrocities can be prevented, and the “democratic” window-dressing preserved, as long as U.S. soldiers stand between the average Iraqi and the Dark Ages – but are we really prepared to stay there for decades, while we see whether forced Westernization is a viable option?

USA Today founder Al Neuharth recalls his World War II service, proudly declaring that he’d do it again, but not when it comes to Iraq:

“If I were eligible for service in Iraq, I would do all I could to avoid it. I would have done the same during the Vietnam War, as many of the politically connected did. ‘Support Our Troops’ is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year’s resolution.”

The answer to those who claim we can’t leave Iraq a “failed state” is that Iraq will continue to be a “failed state” as long as we remain. Our presence is the cause of this failure.

Let’s do it like Neuharth said: sooner rather than later.


Someone’s not acting very presidential.

Hey, they’re translating my column into Polish, Czech, French (from the right as well as left), Russian, Portugese, Serbian (more here), Slovak (?), Spanish, Chinese, and Italian. Is this Finnish (by me, or about me?) What, no Elvish?

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].