Supporters of the U.S. occupation of Iraq sometimes point out that U.S. soldiers are doing good deeds there, such as establishing electricity, water, and other essential services. They also say that the U.S. government liberated the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator. In fact, many of the soldiers themselves honestly feel that they are helping the Iraqi people and look upon Iraqi insurgents who are trying to oust them from Iraq as “terrorists” or “bad guys.”
Suppose I broke into your home and killed your son and your wife. When you try to evict me from your home, I respond, “Wait a minute! I am remodeling and upgrading your home. I’m doing good things for you. The killing of your wife and son are in the past. We now need to look to the future and get your house rebuilt. I’m the best one to do it. And since I sort of made a mess of things, I have an obligation to stay and help you rebuild your home and your life.”
What would be your response? My hunch is that you would not be favorably inclined to my staying in your home, no matter how much I was improving and upgrading it. My hunch is that your anger and rage at me for having broken into your home in the first place and, more important, for having killed your son and wife would not dissipate for a long time.
Or suppose the Chinese military successfully invaded the United States, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process, under the guise of putting a stop to kidnapping and rendition, indefinite detentions, torture and sex abuse, kangaroo tribunals, and wars of aggression against Third World nations. Suppose that during the Chinese occupation, Chinese officials were spending billions of dollars upgrading American schools and the infrastructure. During the occupation, Chinese researchers, tourists, and journalists would be traveling to the United States and expressing friendliness to the American people.
While there undoubtedly would be Americans who would be calling for cooperation with the occupiers, pointing out how they were improving life in America, other Americans (including myself) would be taking the following position: “I don’t care how much you’re improving life in the United States, either in terms of infrastructure, services, or anything else. You had no right to invade our country and you have no right to be occupying our country. Get the heck out of here now or we insurgents will continue to kill you until you do.”
The fact is that U.S. troops, on orders, have killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in a war of aggression against a country that never attacked the United States. The position of U.S. officials, including some of the soldiers, is: “Those deaths are worth it because now the Iraqi people are free of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. And now we have an obligation to rebuild Iraq after destroying it during the invasion, and no Iraqi has any right to stop us. ”
How cavalier! There are at least two big problems with that reasoning, however.
1. Who gave the U.S. government the right to determine that any Iraqi would have chosen death and maiming over living under tyranny? Wasn’t that a choice that the Iraqi people had a right to make rather than having it imposed on them? Isn’t a violent revolution, where countless people are going to lose their lives, a choice best left to the people of each nation? Isn’t that what was done with Eastern Europeans who had to live for almost half a century under Soviet communist tyranny? How about Vietnam today? What about North Korea, a country with whom President Bush just struck a deal? Zimbabwe? Cuba?
Why shouldn’t regime change be left to the citizens of each country rather than have it forcibly and violently imposed on them by the imperial politicians and bureaucrats of Washington, D.C.?
2. For many survivors of the U.S. intervention, living under the brutal occupation in Iraq, combined with an extremist pro-Iranian Islamic regime in Iraq and a violent insurgency, is as bad, if not worse, as living under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. The fact that millions of Iraqis have fled the country is strong circumstantial evidence of that fact.
Since the U.S. had no moral right to invade and occupy Iraq, there is only one moral and honorable course of action for the U.S. government to take. It is the same course of action that the hypothetical burglar or Chinese occupier should take. That course of action is: immediate withdrawal from Iraq. No more rebuilding. No more improvements. No more control. No more killing and maiming. Just immediate withdrawal. The Iraqi people, for better or for worse, have the right to finally be left alone by the U.S. government. The issuance of an apology would be good too.