Friday, March 09, 2007

Catch-22 at every twis

March 9, 2007

Catch-22 at every twist

THE KEY problem that the Democrats, who now control the US Congress after winning November elections mostly on an anti-war platform, is how to end the US military involvement in Iraq. While a majority of the Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate say they are in favour of recalling the US troops home as early as possible, they are unable to come up with a workable idea to realise that goal.
Many of them are also concerned that chaos would follow a US withdrawal from Iraq and that refusing funds for the administration to continue the war would be seen as unpatriotic since it would deprive the US military of much-needed equipment and logistic support and expose them to dangers in the battlefield.
However, it is clear to everyone — except the Bush administration itself — that there is little viability to a military option to end the crisis in Iraq and it needs dramatic decisions and moves to disentangle the US from the mess the war-hungry, Israeli-driven neoconservatives created there.
The Republican camp is no different. As the Democrats, the Republicans also do no have a clue how to take their country out of the Iraq imbroglio, but they are in a relatively more comfortable position today because the onus is the Democrats to do so.
The best that the Democrats could come up with so far is the outine of a proposal which calls for bringing troops home early next year while removing remaining troops from combat by October 2008. That seems to be the best compromise that party leaders could produce, given that a good number of the Democrat members of congress — around 40, according to Washington insiders — have adopted a cautious attitude and would even bolt the anti-war camp if the party followed too aggressive a line in order to recall the troops home.
The proposal would make it binding on the Iraqi government to bring the situation under control in the chaotic country. In its final form, the proposal is expected to set tough benchmarks for the Iraqi regime to meet. It would have to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November this year, and adopt and implement oil-revenue-sharing legislation. It would be required to spend up to $10 billion of Iraq's oil money on job-creating reconstruction and infrastructure projects and hold provincial elections this year.
On the reconciliation front, the government would have to liberalise laws that purged Baath Party members from the government and establish a fairer process for amending the Iraqi constitution.
These benchmarks have to be met by the end of this year. Otherwise, the US troops would begin leaving Iraq next spring, with all troops out of combat by the fall.
Well, if the Iraqi government could meet these benchmarks, then there would not be any need for the US soldiers to stay because the realisation of these goals means a pacified Iraq with a central government in control. As such, the Democrats' proposal is in contradiction with the very essence of ending the US military presence in Iraq.
Suffice it to say that the Iraqi government stands the chance of a snowball in fire to meet those benchmarks.
It is not a single war or enemy that the US-backed government faces in the country. Different ethnic groups with conflicting priorities and objectives are at work and it is a foregone conclusion that it is next to impossible to find common ground that meets the minimum demands of the various players involved.
Naturally, it means that the goals set in the Democrats' draft proposal are unmeetable and this in turn should lead to the US soldiers' packing up and boarding planes and ships to return home next year.
Washington has yet another tiger by the tail in Iraq. Setting a deadline for US departure from Iraq would play into the hands of the insurgents and sectarian militiamen, who would simply fade themselves into the society and lie low until the time is right for them to re-emerge. That is one of the key reasons that the Bush administration always balked at announcing a schedule for US withdrawal from Iraq, with senior officials suggesting that the US military would remain in the country as long as it takes for the situation to be contained and controlled.
There are many other ifs and buts facing any move for a US withdrawal from Iraq, but all these would cease to be hurdles if there is a realistic acceptance by the Bush administration that the conflict in Iraq is a lost war for the US and there is no option except withdrawal. As long as that political will is missing in Washington, there is nothing the Democrats or Republicans could do to disengage their country from Iraq with dignity for their country and its people and its military.