Progressives for Success in Iraq

“Even though I oppose the planned invasion of Iraq, I want my new country to succeed in my old country.” This is what I told the person in the State Department in charge helping formulate pre- and post-invasion plans in 2002 before the invasion. Though I had spoken to this person several times, this was the last conversation I had with him. Clearly, my sentiments against the invasion disqualified me from offering solutions to rebuild Iraq.

Five years later, it turns out that progressive analysts like myself and in think-tanks such as the Institute for Policy Studies, the Center for American Progress, and the National Security Network and grassroots organizations such as United for Peace and Justice, Win without War, Peace Action, and MoveOn.org were not only right in their predictions about the war, they are still right today in advocating a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Bush and his supporters accuse those who were against the invasion of Iraq and are in favor of troop withdrawals today of wanting our troops to fail so that they can seize the moral high ground in their predictions of inevitable failure of such a venture. Last year, Republican National Committee chairman, Robert Duncan, sent an email to supporters saying, “[Voters] need to know about the Democrats’ ‘surrender and defeat’ politics …. It is unconscionable that Democrat leaders are hoping for our troops to fail so their party can gain a political advantage.” The implications of such accusations are that those against the war are not patriotic. The use of such language is the last refuge of political scoundrels and is far from the truth. What could be more patriotic than wanting your country to choose their conflicts carefully, in order to prevent the loss of its soldiers and resources?

By ignoring progressive voices cautioning against war, those “patriots” who led our nation to war have made us less safe and secure both abroad and at home. As a result of the invasion, support for the United States, even among our allies, has dwindled to a single digit. Last December, General Petraeus’ own study indicated that Iraqis blame the United States for many ills, including the ethnic violence that erupted after the invasion and the fragmenting of their society. Most Iraqis think that national reconciliation can only happen when the United States leaves Iraq.

A lack of international support has weakened our security by hampering diplomatic efforts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine, contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and address the global climate crisis.

The Iraq War has left the United States more vulnerable by draining the morale of the military, tiring our ranks with constant deployment, and destroying the equipment. It has diverted our attention away from the war in Afghanistan and other hot spots across the globe.

While these effects of the war are not directly felt by most Americans, the growing economic recession is. And with the war now costing the United States nearly $200 billion a year, we are ill-equipped to deal with this downturn.

In contrast to the Bush administration’s destructive policies, progressive organizations and analysts are promoting a more rational resolution of the debacle. Progressives advocate a peaceful means to achieve our goals in the Middle East. They are promoting the safe and orderly removal of our forces; the use of the UN to administer peace keeping forces, if needed; drawing in Iraq’s neighbors; winning the battle of ideas and bankrupting the nihilistic policy of al-Qaeda and other extremists; associating our interests with the majority of Iraqis — the nationalists — from all sides; and using our advances in education, technology and business to help rebuild Iraq.

These proposals won’t fix Iraq overnight. There will likely be increased death and destruction that happens as the United States withdraws its military. But any short-term instability will be offset by the chances for an Iraqi-led long-term solution. The longer the United States occupies Iraq, the longer it will take for the political solutions that are sorely needed to right the country.

These ideas are patriotic, rational, and in the long run will help make our country and Iraq more safe and secure. Even after five years of war and occupation, we want the best for our country. Seeing peace in Iraq would be far more satisfying than being able to tell the President that progressives were right.

Adil E. Shamoo, born and raised in Baghdad, is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He writes on ethics and public policy. He is an analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus. Erik Leaver, research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and policy outreach director for Foreign Policy In Focus, contributed to this article.