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Getting Out



It’s a “carnival” in Baghdad, according to the Post‘s Ernesto Londono, filled with Iraqi troops grinning as they take their lives into their own hands and graffitti writers further south demanding, “Pull your troops from our Basra, we are its sons and want its sovereignty.” Don’t tell them tomorrow is just another day. These are the people in whose name the U.S. justified six years of a blunder. Like any rational people enduring a foreign military occupation, they light candles and wave banners and sing patriotic songs when the occupier pulls away.

Occupier — what a nauseating word to hear; what an enfeebling thing to be; what a distorting condition to bear. Remember when Zell Miller told us that nothing made that Marine madder than to hear U.S. troops described as occupiers and not liberators? His complaint should have been registered with the man who made them into such a thing, not with those who wouldn’t speak euphemistically or patronizingly about it. What U.S. troops have endured they have endured heroically, in a manner that those who haven’t served can’t comprehend. I consider it more heroic that they’ve done it in spite of the war’s maculate conception.

Spencer puts his finger on something that I’ve never quite understood about Tom Ricks’ “unraveling” series; elite and popular Iraqi opinion (with the partial exception of Kurdistan) is united around the idea of the United States leaving. Whether or not the precarious peace created in part by the Surge holds is pretty much irrelevant to that point. The Iraqi preference for an American withdrawal has held steady pretty much from the day the Americans arrived (public opinion in Afghanistan has always been different, although the gap is closing). Any talk of staying on to “finish the job” or “hold things together” is just so much nonsense in the face of this strong, consistent Iraqi preference. Iraq may unravel, and it will in some important sense have been our responsibility, but by the Iraqis’ own account it’s not our job to prevent that from happening.

See also Stephen Walt.

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