Today is Labor Day and there is short quiet before the storm of debate in Washington about the war in Iraq unleashes itself upon us. General Petraeus will give his assessment later in the month. The White House will deploy its propaganda machinery to instill fear in the population in an attempt to reinvigorate support for a failed effort in Iraq. The anniversary of 9/11 will again be manipulated for political purposes.
Before this storm of debate drowns the voices against the war in Iraq, we would do well to recall the August 19th Op-Ed article in the New York Times by seven soldiers operating on the ground in Iraq.
Since, however, this is a Times Select article and may not be accessible to all, I quote a few sections here to amplify in some small way, their thoughtful and courageous position:
Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.
They make a strong argument for stepping back from the counterinsurgency campaign as they conclude their argument this way:
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 13, 2007:
For two of the seven authors of this article, Sgt. Omar Mora and Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, seeing the mission through meant their own death on Monday, September 10th.
For more on this, see: