- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

To paraphrase Oliver Cromwell, the U.S. military has stayed in Iraq too long for any good it has been doing lately. It should depart, and the United States should be satisfied with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Continued U.S. military presence will not secure democracy in Iraq, as the past year’s chaos and chronic clashes convincingly confirm. Further, President Bush’s mulish pursuit of Iraqi democracy handcuffs the United States in opposing antidemocratic elements in Russia, Ukraine and throughout the Middle East because allies of any stripe are coveted to assist the Iraqi mission.

The prudent statesman, like Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck after the Franco-Prussian war, recognizes the high-water mark of military success and avoids sacrificing even one soldier’s life in a futile cause.

Last weekend in Grand Rapids, Mich., Mr. Bush boasted “there are going to be free elections in Iraq in January,” and that “freedom is on the march, freedom is on the move around the world.” But the president monumentally distorted reality, corroborating Sen. Hiram Johnson’s quip that truth is the first casualty of war.

Iraq’s interim government is unelected and unpopular. Few if any would fight for its survival inspired by patriotism. Killings and kidnappings by approximately 12,000 hard-core militants uncurtain as regularly as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Baghdad, Fallujah, Najaf, Ramadi, Mosul and Kirkuk are signature cities of upheaval. The Iraqi security forces and police are notoriously unreliable and infiltrated by insurgents. Iraqis who collaborate with Americans or take part in the interim government are regularly assassinated or maimed. The Iraqi population resists unbosoming vital intelligence about the insurgency because it fears retaliation and resents the havoc and collateral damage inflicted by the U.S. military on cities occupied or dominated by rebels. Since Ramadan began two weeks ago, militant violence has spiraled.

In sum, as in South Vietnam, the proclaimed light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel is imaginary. And interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi speaking in the United States recently bettered the delusions of South Vietnam by insisting that the ongoing spike in violence and kidnappings proved the desperation of the insurgents.

The institutions and customs of democracy have been stillborn in Iraq under the United States military umbrella. The interim constitution sacralizes the universal tenets of Islam in courts of law. That means no gender or religious equality, death for conversions from Islam, and punishment for disparaging the Holy Koran or bringing the interim government into disrepute. Indeed, Mr. Allawi has closed or ejected media organs that he found encouraged opposition. Reminiscent of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” the interim charter makes all Iraqi citizens equal, but Iraqi Arabs are made more equal than non-Arabs.

Iraq features no credible plan to thwart fraud or corruption if January elections are attempted of delegates to a constitutional convention. Sunnis are inclined toward a boycott if the U.S. military stays. Kurds in the north will probably balk if the majority Shi’ites in the south appear slated to dominate the convention. That domination seems inescapable. Slate-making requirements dictated by incumbent officeholders and large political alliances have alienated smaller factions or organizations. The two major Kurdish factions in the north, the KDP and PUK, are more antiliberal personality cults than democratic parties. Chances are thus slim to none that the convention balloting will be seen as free, fair and legitimate.

In Iraq, the rule of law is pre-embryonic. Generally, judges are either corrupt or untutored. The police are inept or lawless. The accused are denied time-honored procedural safeguards. The interim constitution wars with itself.

Anemic legal protections frighten private investors. Land disputes in the north between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen are resolved more by the sword than by the law. The criminal prosecutions of Saddam and his henchmen languish. Trial by battle is more prevalent than trial by an impartial judge or jury.

President Bush correctly declared, nevertheless, that Iraq has come far “from the days of torture chambers and mass graves [under Saddam].” But that does not mean Iraq is headed toward democracy, just as China remained thoroughly non-democratic when Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution madness was succeeded by the less oppressive creed of Deng Xiao-ping. The written and unwritten rules of democracy have been alien in Iraq since its birth as a nation in 1920. To believe the United States can nurture democracy into being there with overwhelming military force and staggering economic assistance in less than 50 years is to let the wish be father to the thought. But that level of necessary sustained commitment is politically unviable.

Mr. Bush should recognize that the U.S. military has overstayed its usefulness in Iraq. Troops should start an orderly departure. Elite forces should be maintained, however, to prevent Iraq from sheltering terrorists as Afghanistan’s Taliban harbored al Qaeda.

Iraq will continue to convulse and to splinter, but at least American soldiers will not be dying in vain. Moreover, freed from the Iraqi briar patch, the United States will be free to champion democracy globally without the inhibitions engendered by needed allies and coalition partners.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant at Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.

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