Civil War and Ending the War

By David Swanson

Remarks March 3, 2006, at University of California – San Diego

Fox News titled a recent segment “All Out Civil War in Iraq: could it Be a Good Thing?” Presumably it could from the point of view of the Bush-Cheney gang, if it gets in the way of all-out resistance to the occupation. That is, Bush almost certainly would prefer to see Sunnis fighting Shias than to see both fighting Americans and collaborators.

From the point of view of the Iraqi people, the people of the Middle East, and the people of the United States either type of civil war is just more very bad news. In either type of war, or a combination of the two, it makes sense to call it a CIVIL war, since Iraqis are doing most of the killing and dying – and most of those dying are civilians.

In any case, the war cannot be resolved without the U.S. soldiers leaving. Only leaving provides the chance for a peaceful solution. Financial aid for reconstruction, combined with assistance from the United Nations, can increase the likelihood of a democratic and peaceful Iraq. There are no guarantees, except that the present course will make things worse.

The idea that the US occupation must continue because things would get worse if it ended is clearly not what the White House actually cares about behind closed doors. But taking the claim on its own terms it quickly falls apart. Things in Iraq have been getting steadily worse during the occupation, and the escalating violence is driven largely by anger at the occupation.

After three years and a quarter trillion dollars, infrastructure, water, and electricity are worse than before the war. Investment is going into prisons, oil pipelines, and waste at Halliburton. And there is no functioning government even able to police the streets. Security is being privatized, and assassinations and torture are everyday occurrences.

Most of the corpses in Baghdad’s mortuary show signs of torture and execution. And much of it appears to be done by groups working for the government. Meanwhile the US government lacks the moral authority to even speak, since there is no behavior so foul that our government is not doing it.

We are also aggravating sectarian tensions that have historically been fairly low. The longer the chaos created by the occupation persists, the more people will look to religious identity groups for protection.

And as long as the occupation actually works with one group to abuse another, this process will accelerate. Already Sunnis and Shias are forcing each other out of certain neighborhoods.

Still, I think there is reason to believe that reports of religious hatred are overblown.

I have heard from various Iraqis who say that this is a Western myth along the same lines as the WMDs and ties to 9-11.

The BBC reported that al Sadr called for revenge on Sunnis following the recent bombing of a Shiite Mosque. In reality, he said no Sunni could have done it and all Iraqis should protest the occupation.

Other sectarian leaders said the same.

Al Sistani said people should “express their protests through peaceful means. The extent of their sorrow and shock should not drag them into taking actions that serve the enemies who have been working to lead Iraq into sectarian strife.”

It’s possible that we will see sectarian violence generate intense anger which is then directed toward the longstanding source of anger: the US occupation. The 82% of Iraqis want the US out, and 47% support attacks on US troops.

But our role is neither to analyze this, nor to wait for it to happen, nor to support violence. Our role is to make clear to the world that that is NOT a US occupation. It is merely an occupation by Bush, Cheney, and the US Congress. It does NOT belong to the American public.

I saw an editorial in Le Monde that said the US should get out but do so in such a way that the “jihadists” don’t think they’ve won.

But what could be more advantageous for unifying the Iraqi people than a collective victory? It seemed to work wonders for our 13 colonies.

I think the US military should get out in such a way that Iraqis and Americans and the world and the rule of law all win.

Even more important than what happens in Iraq when our kids come home is whether or not international law survives the blatant violation that this war is. Otherwise any nation is free to attack any other.

That means the US must completely withdraw, that we must leave neither bases nor corporations behind (unless a democratic Iraq chooses freely to work with US corporations), and we must not bomb Iraq after pulling our troops out.

But, most importantly, those guilty of launching this war must be held accountable for it. Or what is to prevent the next one?

That begins with a process that may actually need to be achieved before we can end the war.

Imagine that Congress votes to end funding for this criminal adventure. Will that end the war? 435 times Bush has signed bills and added a signing statement. That’s over 100 more times than all previous presidents combined. These statements have made clear that torture is a form of self-defense, revenge can be taken against someone who didn’t do anything, and Congress no longer exists as a meaningful institution.

How does a nonexistent Congress end a war being waged by a unitary executive?

One word. We can IMPEACH.

We who support impeachment are a majority according to the polls. We CAN impeach.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has laid out a strong case for four articles of impeachment, so strong that if we do not act we will effectively be removing impeachment from the Constitution.

Usually when I give a speech, I like to rattle off some of the latest pieces of evidence. But lately we seem to have hit smoking gun fatigue. People are tired of the evidence and want to know what we can do about it.

We must impeach.

Start by making sure that your Congress Member cosponsors House Resolution 635 for an investigation into grounds for impeachment.

Then come to to see what else you can do.

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