Thursday, June 05, 2008

What leaving Iraq could do

By Carol Gee

Lawmakers talk about the way forward out of Iraq -- Leaving Iraq could mean that citizens of both countries could have a say in what eventually happens. For the very first time two leading members of the Iraqi parliament (speaking through translators) appeared at a hearing of a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Tuesday. Political science Professor Nadeem Al-Jaberi and Sheik Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, wished to be identified as Iraqis rather than Shiia and Sunni, respectively. Surprisingly in accord with many of their points of view, the two men were very impressive witnesses. Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass) chaired the panel which was only lightly attended by House Members. He said of Al-Jaberi that he had "trained a generation of Iraqi political scientists." The Sunni Sheik, Al-Ulayyan, impressive in white robe and turban, had risen to the rank of General in the Iraqi armed forces prior to the invasion.

All the lawmakers involved, both U.S. and Iraqi, will demand that any joint "status of forces" agreement be ratified by the legislators representing the peoples of each country. Leaving Iraq could mean political party realignments in both countries. There was a good deal of sentiment for waiting for such a deal until a new U.S. administration takes office. At the very least, however, the "Iraq lawmakers want U.S. forces out as part if a deal, " according to the 6/4/08 Reuters article. To quote:

A majority of the Iraqi parliament has written to Congress rejecting a long-term security deal with Washington if it is not linked to a requirement that U.S. forces leave, a U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Rep. William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat and Iraq war opponent, released excerpts from a letter he was handed by Iraqi parliamentarians laying down conditions for the security pact that the Bush administration seeks with Iraq.

The proposed pact has become increasingly controversial in Iraq, where there have been protests against it. It has also drawn criticism from Democrats on the presidential election campaign trail in the United States, who say President George W. Bush is trying to dictate war policy after he leaves office.

Getting out of Iraq will mean the release of certain Iraqis from U.S. custody. Leaving Iraq could mean justice for the first time in several years for innocent men from Guantanamo and from secret prisons in Europe and around the world, who must be repatriated to their homelands. Now it turns out that our prison ships must also be part of that solution. It will be no small task. This story in The Guardian* (6/2/08) is headlined, "US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships." To quote:

The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's legal director, said: "They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.

"By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been 'through the system' since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them."

What will happen to the mercenary forces when the U.S. leaves Iraq? Leaving Iraq could break the strangle hold that private contractors have had on the U.S. military budget. The war profiteers will be forced to find other lucrative ways to make their huge profits. The following blurb from Pam's House Blend (6/2/08) explains that the private contractor Blackwater has been allowed by the U.S. government to purchase a Brazilian made fighter. The author leaves us with this natural question: "Blackwater starting its own mercenary air force for use against whom?"

Getting out of Iraq may mean a chance for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Leaving Iraq could remove one of the primary irritants -- occupation of Iraq -- to radical jihadis and oppressed people in the Middle East. The story regarding former President Jimmy Carter's long term opposition to current U.S. mid-east foreign policy is from Chris Floyd Online* (5/26/08) and headlined, "Hay Ride: Jimmy Carter Crosses the Line." To quote:

Former President Jimmy Carter had come to Hay-on-Wye for the annual literary festival, and held forth in a wide-ranging interview before a large crowd. Carter denounced the policies of the so-called "Quartet" -- the U.S., EU, UN and Russia -- which have led to the strangulation of Gaza and immense suffering to the people "imprisoned" there, in Carter's words.

We cannot yet imagine all that leaving Iraq could do. Millions of us would like to begin that imagining. But it needs to be remembered that electing Senator John McCain to the U.S. presidency would end all such dreams.

*Hat tip to betmo at life's journey for a number of these links.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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