Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Countdown to June 30

It's heating up again in Iraq. Twelve Marines were killed yesterday, bringing the death toll for Coalition forces to 638 - not counting PMC employees. The names of the 638 are here. It's clear that Iraq is not pacified and that we have not established any kind of civil order. The war is still ongoing.

So, when June 30 comes, are we still getting out? So far, Bush has declared that the deadline is utterly inviolate, even though it means that there won't be time to establish an elected government in Iraq before U.S. forces pull out. They're not even trying to pretend that the June 30 deadline is based on anything other than the need to have the war wrapped up before the U.S. Presidential election in November. But if we pull our troops out in the midst of hard fighting and continued U.S. casualties, it's hard to see how even the Bush Administration could spin that as a military victory. If we pull our troops out and what follows is a bloody Iraqi civil war, followed by the rise of a hardline Islamic religious government, it's hard to imagine how even Rumsfeld and Perle could shrug it off as a bubbly excess of individual liberty. ("Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.")

But I don't know. Maybe they could. Certainly, the ongoing violent mess in Afghanistan doesn't seem to draw a lot of press coverage or public outrage. Maybe they would be able to drown any lingering doubts about the aftermath of Iraq with the televised execution of Saddam Hussein, a flood of red-white-and-blue bunting, and a crowd of screaming patriots chanting "U.S.A."

John Kerry is working at making it harder for them, and good for him.
"I have always said consistently that it is a mistake to set an arbitrary date, and I hope that date has nothing to do with the election here in the United States," Kerry told reporters in Ohio, where he talked about his plan to revitalize the economy. "The test of a turnover of sovereignty is the stability of Iraq, not an arbitrary date." [...]

"We have to be successful in Iraq. I've said that many times," Kerry said. "But we have to be successful by pursuing a policy that makes sense, that brings all nations to the table to understand the stakes. And I think this administration has yet to provide Americans with a thorough understanding of exactly of who we are turning the authority over to in June and precisely what the consequences of that will be."
Yes, I understand the irony of my position. I'm a passionately anti-Iraq-War liberal Democrat who is arguing that we can't stop fighting the war. But that's because we owe it to the people of Iraq not to leave them in a bloody hell of lawlesness and civil chaos.