The national discussion concerning Iraq has taken some very peculiar turns. Ever since the Bush administration launched its Baghdad "surge" (increased U.S. troop presence in Baghdad in order to crush the Iraqi resistance) the discussion has revolved around whether there should be a surge; whether a surge will succeed; and how long it should last.
This all misses the point. Whether this surge or any surge succeeds and defeats the Iraqi resistance is actually beside the point. The issue is that the war itself is wrong and has been since it was first launched.
Some people of good will have suggested that the surge, and for that matter continued U.S. military involvement in Iraq, are critical because otherwise Iraq will completely disintegrate. My first response is simple: Have you been watching what has been playing out ever since the United States invaded?
My second response is better explained through this analogy. Let's suppose that someone informed the police that there were drugs in your home. In the middle of the night the police bang down the door and invade your home, ransacking it in search of drugs; handcuffing you and your family and taking you to jail; seizing your money and other assets. Members of your family have been abused, and are traumatized as a result of imprisonment.
Then, one day, it is "discovered" that there never were any drugs in your home. The police never apologize, but they do TELL you that they will rebuild your home according to specifications that THEY decide. They will set you and your family free, but there will, nevertheless, be periodic police visits to your home. They will return your money, but they insist that they will tell you how and where to spend it.
Would you call that a good deal? Would you want the police to stay around? Would you trust the police to rebuild your home?
What we, in the United States, cannot step around is a very simple fact, a fact that should control all other facts: we had no legal basis to invade Iraq and none to remain as occupier. The pretexts for the invasion were falsehoods, spread by the Bush administration in order to create fear here in the United States and elsewhere.
One cannot correct this illegal action by insisting on staying in Iraq until things get "better." Even if the Iraqi resistance is militarily defeated, it will prove nothing more than that the United States has a stronger military force. The bottom line, which comes through in opinion poll after opinion poll of the Iraqi people, is that they want the United States out of Iraq.
For this reason, the failure of most of the presidential candidates to declare themselves in favor of an immediate withdrawal is unconscionable. Just as the police would be unable to correct their unjustified action of invading your home by staying around and rebuilding your home according to how THEY would like to see it, so too is it the case that the United States will never be able to build trust and stability even if it succeeds in defeating the Iraqi resistance.
What is the most likely scenario if the United States announced it intended to withdraw from Iraq? Most probably the United Nations, along with Iraq's neighbors, would get directly involved in peace and reconciliation talks. They would not have a cloud over them as acting in the interests of the United States, a problem that haunts all parties who might currently wish to assist in bringing about peace in Iraq as long as the United States remains entrenched in that country.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies.