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June 4, 2007

Drive U.S. Out of Iraq with Peace? Fine By Me, Muqtada


“Pay attention: This is an important point,” Muqtada al-Sadr recently said to his Iraqi Shiite Mehdi Army after emerging in public for the first time in four months. “As far as I know, the occupation is behind this [intra-Iraqi violence], creating an excuse for it to stay in our beloved Iraq. So don't give it a reason, please.”

That’s fine by me, Muqtada.


Al-Sadr is one of many Iraqis, Arabs and individuals around the world who sincerely believe that the United States invaded Iraq, and remains there, for the sole purpose of staying in that country indefinitely. An American stay in Iraq, they believe, will signify virtually unlimited American access to Arab oil as well as endless American rule and expansion in Muslim countries. Few of these skeptics are convinced of America’s claims that it remains in the Middle East in order to help Iraq and the rest of the region.


Contrary to these widespread beliefs, however, Washington has different intentions. Though the United States did invade Iraq in part to eradicate Saddam Hussein’s regime, a major goal of the war was the establishment of a democracy that would hopefully spread to other countries in the region. A democratic nation would in turn be self-governing and independent, thus relegating U.S. presence in the country to one equivalent to its role in Germany or Japan. The American objective hence is not exactly suggestive of the type of imperial power to which al-Sadr alludes.


A quick look at the perspective of the American public would go a long way in demonstrating the point. Americans, both in the anti-war camp as well as those resolutely standing behind the Bush administration, are itching to get the troops back to their families as soon as possible (though “possible” is defined quite differently on each side). They do not want to be in it for the long run, nor do they hope to move on to another military venture in the region for anything short of an absolute necessity.


It is therefore somewhat humorous that al-Sadr seems to think that a peaceful Iraq would present bad news for the United States because it would force the withdrawal of its troops. In fact, that is one plan to apparently force America’s hand that Americans would probably support. If al-Sadr wants to help sow the seeds of peace between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites in order to get Americans out of Iraq, we can live with that for now.


While he’s at it, there are several other things he could do to make Iraq ever more peaceful and get the United States out even faster. For one, he could work toward the disarmament of Iraqi militias, whether or not under his control. He could encourage his constituency to work within the Iraqi government in order to effect change. He could reach out to Sunnis and work with them, the Iraqi government and coalition forces in order to weed out extremists on all sides.


We can agree with al-Sadr that, in such a situation, the U.S. troops would be very quick to leave Iraq. And that is a good thing.


The United States has tried hard to convince Iraqis from all sects and factions that it is doing its best for the people of Iraq. Many believe us. Others, however, despite seeing the United States suffer thousands of deaths, a decrease in international respect and the loss of regional power, still believe that America is somehow benefiting from the violence and the extended stay associated with it.


They are obviously wrong. Clearly, however, this theory has reached some of the highest levels in religious and political leadership, as we see in al-Sadr’s words. He refuses to believe us still, but this time, it is not such a bad thing. He claims to want to work toward peace in order to get Americans out of Iraq. Wonderful, let him do that, for we are not trying to find a reason to stay there. We are trying to find a reason to get out. Peace would be the perfect reason. Let us work on it together, Muqtada, shall we?


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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