The way out of war: A blueprint for leaving Iraq now
BY George S. (George Stanley) McGovern and William Roe Polk
PUBLISHED October 2006
SPEECH OF HON. JAMES P. McGOVERN OF MASSACHUSETTS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2006
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, former Senator George McGovern and William
R. Polk, founder and director of the Center for Middle Eastern
Studies at the University of Chicago, have co-authored a new book,
Out of Iraq , that is being released in October 2006 by Simon &
Schuster.I would like to share with my colleagues an excerpt
published in the October edition of Harper's Magazine.
Staying in Iraq is not an option. Many Americans who were among the
most eager to invade Iraq now urge that we find a way out. These
Americans include not only civilian "strategists" and other "hawks"
but also senior military commanders and, perhaps most fervently,
combat soldiers. Even some of those Iraqis regarded by our senior
officials as the most pro-American are determined now to see American
military personnel leave their country. Polls show that as few as 2
percent of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators. This is the
reality of the situation in Iraq. We must acknowledge the Iraqis'
right to ask us to leave, and we should set a firm date by which to do so.
We suggest that phased withdrawal should begin on or before December
31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by
June 30, 2007.
Withdrawal is not only a political imperative but a strategic
requirement. As many retired American military officers now admit,
Iraq has become, since the invasion, the primary recruiting and
training ground for terrorists. The longer American troops remain in
Iraq, the more recruits will flood the ranks of those who oppose
America not only in Iraq but elsewhere.
Withdrawal will not be without financial costs, which are unavoidable
and will have to be paid sooner or later. But the decision to
withdraw at least does not call for additional expenditures. On the
contrary, it will effect massive savings. Current U.S. expenditures
run at approximately $246 million each day, or more than $10 million
an hour, with costs rising steadily each year. Although its figures
do not include all expenditures, the Congressional Research Service
listed direct costs at $77.3 billion in 2004, $87.3 billion in 2005,
and $100.4 billion in fiscal year 2006. Even if troop withdrawals
begin this year, total costs (including those in Afghanistan) are
thought likely to rise by $371 billion during the withdrawal period.
Economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, a former assistant
secretary of commerce, have estimated that staying in Iraq another
four years will cost us at least $1 trillion.
Let us be clear: there will be some damage. This is inevitable no
matter what we do. At the end of every insurgency we have studied,
there was a certain amount of chaos as the participants sought to
establish a new civic order. This predictable turmoil has given rise
to the argument, still being put forward by die-hard hawks, that
Americans must, in President Bush's phrase, "stay the course." The
argument is false. When a driver is on the wrong road and headed for
an abyss, it is a bad idea to "stay the course." A nation afflicted
with a failing and costly policy is not well served by those calling
for more of the same, and it is a poor idea to think that we can
accomplish in the future what we are failing to accomplish in the
present. We are as powerless to prevent the turmoil that will ensue
when we withdraw as we have been to stop the insurgency. But we will
have removed a major cause of the insurgency once we have withdrawn.
Moreover, there are ways in which we can be helpful to the Iraqisand
protect our own interestsby ameliorating the underlying conditions
and smoothing the edges of conflict.The first of these would be a
"bridging" effort between the occupation and complete independence.
* * *
To this end, we think that the Iraqi government would be wise to
request the temporary services of an international stabilization
force to police the country during and immediately after the period
of American withdrawal. Such a force should itself have a firm date
fixed for its removal. Our estimate is that Iraq would need this
force for no more than two years after the American withdrawal is
complete. During this period, the force could be slowly but steadily
cut back in both personnel and deployment. Its purpose would be
limited to activities aimed at enhancing public security.
Consequently, the armament of this police force should be restricted.
It would have no need for tanks or artillery or offensive aircraft
but only light equipment. It would not attempt, as have American
troops, to battle the insurgents. Indeed, after the withdrawal of
American troops, as well as British regular troops and mercenary
forces, the insurgency, which was aimed at achieving that objective,
would almost immediately begin to lose public support. Insurgent
gunmen would either put down their weapons or become publicly
identified as outlaws.
We imagine that the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi people, would
find the composition of such a force most acceptable if it were drawn
from Arab or Muslim countries. Specifically, it should be possible
under the aegis of the United Nations to obtain, say, five
contingents of 3,000 men each from Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt.
Jordan and Syria might also be asked to contribute personnel. If
additional troops were required, or if any of these governments were
deemed unacceptable to Iraq or unwilling to serve, application could
be made to such Muslim countries as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and
Indonesia. Other countries might be included if the Iraqi government
It would benefit both Iraq and the United States if we were to pay
for this force. Assuming that a ballpark figure would be $500 per man
per day, and that 15,000 men would be required for two years, the
overall cost would be $5.5 billion. That is approximately 3 percent
of what it would cost to continue the war, with American troops, for
the next two years. Not only would this represent a great monetary
saving to us but it would spare countless American lives and would
give Iraq the breathing space it needs to recover from the trauma of
the occupation in a way that does not violate national and religious
The American subvention should be paid directly to the Iraqi
government, which would then "hire" the police services it requires
from other governments. The vast amount of equipment that the
American military now has in Iraq, particularly transport and
communications and light arms, should be turned over to this new
multinational force rather than shipped home or destroyed.
* * *
As the insurgency loses its national justification, other dangers
will confront Iraq. One of these is "warlordism," as we have seen in
Afghanistan, and other forms of large-scale crime. Some of this will
almost certainly continue. But the breakdown of public order will
never be remedied by American forces; it can only be addressed by a
national police force willing to work with neighborhood, village, and
tribal home guards. Ethnic and regional political divisions in Iraq
have been exacerbated by the occupation, and they are unlikely to
disappear once the occupation is over. They are now so bitter as to
preclude a unified organization, at least for the time being. It is
therefore paramount that the national police force involve local
leaders, so as to ensure that the home guards operate only within
their own territory and with appropriate action. In part, this is why
Iraq needs a "cooling off" period, with multinational security
assistance, after the American withdrawal.
While the temporary international police force completes its work,
the creation of a permanent national police force is, and must be, an
Iraqi task. American interference would be, and has been,
counterproductive. And it will take time. The creation and
solidification of an Iraqi national police force will probably
require, at a rough estimate, four to five years to become fully
effective. We suggest that the American withdrawal package should
include provision of $1 billion to help the Iraqi government create,
train, and equip such a force, which is roughly the cost of four days
of the present American occupation.
Neighborhood, village, and tribal home guards, which are found
throughout Iraq, of course constitute a double-edged sword.
Inevitably, they mirror the ethnic, religious, and political
communities from which they are drawn. Insofar as they are restricted
each to its own community, and are carefully monitored by a
relatively open and benign government, they will enhance security;
allowed to move outside their home areas, they will menace public
order. Only a central government police and respected community
leaders can possibly hope to control these militias. America has no
useful role to play in these affairs, as experience has made perfectly clear.
* * *
It is not in the interests of Iraq to encourage the growth and heavy
armament of a reconstituted Iraqi army. The civilian government of
Iraq should be, and hopefully is, aware that previous Iraqi armies
have frequently acted against Iraqi civic institutions. That is,
Iraqi armies have not been a source of defense but of disruption. We
cannot prevent the reconstitution of an Iraqi army, but we should
not, as we are currently doing, actually encourage this at a cost of
billions to the American taxpayer. If at all possible, we should
encourage Iraq to transfer what soldiers it has already recruited for
its army into a national reconstruction corps modeled on the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers. The United States could assist in the
creation and training of just such a reconstruction corps, which
would undertake the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by the war,
with an allocation of, say, $500 million, or roughly the cost of two
days of the current occupation.
Withdrawal of American forces must include immediate cessation of
work on U.S. military bases. Nearly half of the more than 100 bases
have already been closed down and turned over, at least formally, to
the Iraqi government, but as many as fourteen "enduring" bases for
American troops in Iraq are under construction. The largest five are
already massive, amounting to virtual cities. The Balad Air Base,
forty miles north of Baghdad, has a miniature golf course, 2 PXs, a
Pizza Hut, a Burger King, and a jail. Another, under construction at
al-Asad, covers more than thirteen square miles. Although Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated on December 23, 2005, that "at the
moment there are no plans for permanent bases. . . . It is a subject
that has not even been discussed with the Iraqi government," his
remarks are belied by action on the ground, where bases are growing
in size and being given aspects of permanency. The most critical of
these are remote military bases. They should be stood down rapidly.
Closing these bases is doubly important: for America, they are
expensive and already redundant; for Iraqis, they both symbolize and
personify a hated occupation. With them in place, no Iraqi government
will ever feel truly independent. It is virtually certain that absent
a deactivation of U.S. military bases, the insurgency will continue.
The enormous American base at Baghdad International Airport,
ironically named "Camp Victory," should be the last of the military
bases to be closed, as it will be useful in the process of disengagement.
We should of course withdraw from the Green Zone, our vast, sprawling
complex in the center of Baghdad. The United States has already spent
or is currently spending $1.8 billion on its headquarters there,
which contains, or will contain, some 600 housing units, a Marine
barracks, and more than a dozen other buildings, as well as its own
electrical, water, and sewage systems. The Green Zone should be
turned over to the Iraqi government no later than December 31, 2007.
By this time, the U.S. should have bought, or rented, or built a
"normal" embassy for a considerably reduced complement of personnel.
Symbolically, it would be beneficial for the new building not to be
in the Green Zone. Assuming that a reasonable part of the Green
Zone's cost can be saved, there should be no additional cost to
create a new American embassy for an appropriate number of not more
than 500 American officials, as opposed to the 1,000 or so Americans
who today staff the Green Zone. Insofar as is practical, the new
building should not be designed as though it were a beleaguered
fortress in enemy territory.
Withdrawal from these bases, and an end to further construction,
should save American taxpayers billions of dollars over the coming
two years. This is quite apart from the cost of the troops they would
house. America should immediately release all prisoners of war and
close its detention centers.
* * *
Mercenaries, euphemistically known as "Personal Security Detail," are
now provided by an industry of more than thirty "security" firms,
comprising at least 25,000 armed men. These constitute a force larger
than the British troop contingent in the "Coalition of the Willing"
and operate outside the direct controland with little interference
from the military justice systemsof the British and American armies.
They are, literally, the "loose cannons" of the Iraq war. They should
be withdrawn rapidly and completely, as the Iraqis regard them as the
very symbol of the occupation. Since the U.S. pays for them either
directly or indirectly, all we need to do is stop payment.
Much work will be necessary to dig up and destroy land mines and
other unexploded ordinance and, where possible, to clean up the
depleted uranium used in artillery shells. These are dangerous tasks
that require professional training, but they should be turned over
wherever possible to Iraqi contractors. These contractors would
employ Iraqi labor, which would help jump-start a troubled economy
and be of immediate benefit to the millions of Iraqis who are now out
of work. The United Nations has gained considerable knowledge about
de-miningfrom the Balkans, Afghanistan, and elsewherethat might be
shared with the Iraqis. Although cleanup will be costly, we cannot
afford to leave this dangerous waste behind. One day's wartime
expenditure, roughly $250 million, would pay for surveys of the
damage and the development of a plan to deal with it. Once the extent
of the problem is determined, a fund should be established to
eradicate the danger completely.
These elements of the "withdrawal package" may be regarded as basic.
Without them, Iraqi society will have little chance of recovering
economically or governing itself with any effectiveness. Without
them, American interests in the Middle East, and indeed throughout
the world, will be severely jeopardized. These measures are, we
repeat, inexpensive and represent an enormous savings over the cost
of the current war effort. Building on them are further actions that
would also help Iraq become a safe and habitable environment. To
these "second tier" policies we now turn.
* * *
Property damage incurred during the invasion and occupation has been
extreme. The World Bank has estimated that at least $25 billion will
be required to repair the Iraqi infrastructure alonethis is quite
apart from the damage done to private property. The reconstruction
can be, and should be, done by Iraqis, as this would greatly benefit
the Iraqi economy, but the United States will need to make a generous
contribution to the effort if it is to be a success. Some of this aid
should be in the form of grants; the remainder can be in the form of
loans. Funds should be paid directly to the Iraqi government, as it
would be sound policy to increase the power and public acceptance of
that government once American troops withdraw. The Iraqis will
probably regard such grants or loans as reparations; some of the
money will probably be misspent or siphoned off by cliques within the
government. It would therefore benefit the Iraqi people if some form
of oversight could be exercised over the funds, but this would tend
to undercut the legitimacy and authority of their government, which
itself will probably be reconstituted during or shortly after the
American occupation ends. Proper use of aid funds has been a problem
everywhere: America's own record during the occupation has been
reprehensible, with massive waste, incompetence, and outright
dishonesty now being investigated for criminal prosecution. No
fledgling Iraqi government is likely to do better, but if
reconstruction funds are portioned out to village, town, and city
councils, the enhancement of such groups will go far toward the
avowed American aim of strengthening democracy, given that Iraqis at
the "grass roots" level would be taking charge of their own affairs.
We suggest that the United States allocate for the planning and
organization of the reconstruction the sum of $1 billion, or roughly
four days of current wartime expenditure. After a planning survey is
completed, the American government will need to determine, in
consultation with the Iraqi government (and presumably with the
British government, our only true "partner" in the occupation), what
it is willing to pay for reconstruction. We urge that the
compensation be generous, as generosity will go a long way toward
repairing the damage to the American reputation caused by this war.
Nearly as important as the rebuilding of damaged buildings and other
infrastructure is the demolition of the ugly monuments of warfare.
Work should be undertaken as soon as is feasible to dismantle and
dispose of the miles of concrete blast walls and wire barriers
erected around present American installations. Although the Iraqi
people can probably be counted on to raze certain relics of the
occupation on their own, we should nonetheless, in good faith, assist
in this process. A mere two days' worth of the current war effort,
$500 million, would employ a good many Iraqi demolition workers.
Another residue of war and occupation has been the intrusion of
military facilities on Iraqi cultural sites. Some American facilities
have done enormous and irreparable damage. Astonishingly, one
American camp was built on top of the Babylon archaeological site,
where American troops flattened and compressed ancient ruins in order
to create a helicopter pad and fueling stations. Soldiers filled
sandbags with archaeological fragments and dug trenches through
unexcavated areas while tanks crushed 2,600-year-old pavements.
Babylon was not the only casualty. The 5,000-year-old site at Kish
was also horribly damaged. We need to understand that Iraq, being a
seedbed of Western civilization, is a virtual museum. It is hard to
put a spade into the earth there without disturbing a part of our
shared cultural heritage. We suggest that America set up a fund of,
say, $750 million, or three days' cost of the war, to be administered
by an ad-hoc committee drawn from the Iraqi National Museum of
Antiquities or the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the
British Museum, the World Monuments Fund, the Smithsonian
Institution, and what is perhaps America's most prestigious
archaeological organization, the Oriental Institute of the University
of Chicago, to assist in the restoration of sites American troops
have damaged. We should not wish to go down in history as yet another
barbarian invader of the land long referred to as the cradle of civilization.
* * *
Independent accounting of Iraqi funds is urgently required. The
United Nations handed over to the American-run Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) billions of dollars generated by the sale of Iraq
petroleum with the understanding that these monies would be used to
the benefit of the Iraqi people and would be accounted for by an
independent auditor. The CPA delayed this audit month after month,
and it was still not completed by the time the CPA ceased to exist.
Any funds misused or misappropriated by U.S. officials should be
repaid to the proper Iraqi authority. What that amount is we cannot
predict at this time.
Although the funds turned over to the CPA by the U.N. constitute the
largest amount in dispute, that is by no means the only case of
possible misappropriation. Among several others reported, perhaps the
most damaging to Iraq has been a project allocated to Halliburton's
subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root as part of a $2.4 billion no-bid
contract awarded in 2003. The $75.7 million project was meant to
repair the junction of some fifteen pipelines linking the oil fields
with terminals. Engineering studies indicated that as conceived the
project was likely to fail, but KBR forged ahead and, allegedly,
withheld news of the failure from the Iraqi Ministry of Petroleum
until it had either spent or received all the money. Despite this,
KBR was actually awarded a bonus by the Army Corps of Engineers, even
though Defense Department auditors had found more than $200 million
of KBR's charges to be questionable. There would seem to be more
greed than prudence in the repeated awards to Halliburton in the
run-up to the war, during the war itself, and in contracts to repair
the war damages. Especially given that Vice President Dick Cheney was
formerly CEO of Halliburton, the U.S. should make every effort to
investigate this wrongdoing, prosecute and correct it, and depart
from Iraq with clean hands.
* * *
The United States should not object to the Iraqi government voiding
all contracts entered into for the exploration, development, and
marketing of oil during the American occupation. These contracts
clearly should be renegotiated or thrown open to competitive
international bids. The Iraqi government and public believe that
because Iraqi oil has been sold at a discount to American companies,
and because long-term
"production-sharing agreements" are highly favorable to the
concessionaires, an unfair advantage has been taken. Indeed, the form
of concession set up at the urging of the CPA's consultants has been
estimated to deprive Iraq of as much as $194 billion in revenues. To
most Iraqis, and indeed to many foreigners, the move to turn over
Iraq's oil reserves to American and British companies surely confirms
that the real purpose of the invasion was to secure, for American use
and profit, Iraq's lightweight and inexpensively produced oil.
It is to the long-term advantage of both Iraq and the United States,
therefore, that all future dealings in oil, which, after all, is the
single most important Iraqi national asset, be transparent and fair.
Only then can the industry be reconstituted and allowed to run
smoothly; only then will Iraq be able to contribute to its own
well-being and to the world's energy needs. Once the attempt to
create American-controlled monopolies is abandoned, we believe it
should be possible for investment, even American investment, to take
place in a rapid and orderly manner. We do not, then, anticipate a
net cost connected with this reform.
* * *
Providing reparations to Iraqi civilians for lives and property lost
is a necessity. The British have already begun to do so in the zone
they occupy. According to Martin Hemming of the Ministry of Defence,
British policy "has, from the outset of operations in Iraq, been to
recognize the duty to provide compensation to Iraqis where this is
required by the law. . . . [B]etween 1 June 2003 and 31 July 2006,
2,327 claims have been registered . . ." Although there is no precise
legal precedent from past wars that would require America to act
accordingly, American forces in Iraq have now provided one:
individual military units are authorized to make "condolence
payments" of up to $2,500. The United States could, and should, do
even more to compensate Iraqi victims or their heirs. Such an action
might be compared to the Marshall Plan, which so powerfully redounded
to America's benefit throughout the world after the end of the Second
World War. As we go forward, the following points should be considered.
The number of civilians killed or wounded during the invasion and
occupation, particularly in the sieges of Fallujah, Tal Afar, and
Najaf, is unknown. Estimates run from 30,000 to well over 100,000
killed, with many more wounded or incapacitated. Assuming the number
of unjustified deaths to be 50,000, and the compensation per person
to be $10,000, our outlay would run to only $500 million, or two
days' cost of the war. The number seriously wounded or incapacitated
might easily be 100,000. Taking the same figure as for death
benefits, the total cost would be $1 billion, or four days' cost of
the war. The dominant voice in this process should be that of Iraq
itself, but in supplying the funds the United States could reasonably
insist on the creation of a quasi-independent body, composed of both
Iraqis and respected foreigners, perhaps operating under the umbrella
of an internationally recognized organization such as the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or
the World Health Organization, to assess and distribute compensation.
In the meantime, a respected international body should be appointed
to process the claims of, and pay compensation to, those Iraqis who
have been tortured (as defined by the Geneva Conventions) or who have
suffered long-term imprisonment. The Department of Defense admits
that approximately 3,200 people have been held for longer than a
year, and more than 700 for longer than two years, most of them
without charge, a clear violation of the treasured American right of
habeas corpus. The number actually subjected to torture remains
unknown, but it is presumed to include a significant portion of those
incarcerated. Unfortunately, there exists no consensus, legal or
otherwise, on how victims of state-sponsored torture should be
compensated, and so it is not currently possible to estimate the cost
of such a program. Given that this is uncharted legal territory, we
should probably explore it morally and politically to find a measure
of justifiable compensation. The very act of assessing
damagesperhaps somewhat along the lines of the South African Truth
and Reconciliation Commission would, in and of itself, be a part of
the healing process.
* * *
America should also offernot directly but through suitable
international or nongovernmental organizationsa number of further
financial inducements to Iraq's recovery. These might include
fellowships for the training of lawyers, judges, journalists, social
workers, and other civil-affairs workers. Two days' cost of the
current war, or $500 million, would ably fund such an effort.
In addition, assistance to "grass roots" organizations and
professional societies could help encourage the return to Iraq of the
thousands of skilled men and women who left in the years following
the first Gulf war. Relocation allowance and supplementary pay might
be administered by the Iraqi engineers' union. Medical practitioners
might receive grants through the medical association. Teachers might
be courted by the teachers' union or the Ministry of Education.
Assuming that some 10,000 skilled workers could be enticed to return
for, say, an average of $50,000, this would represent a cost to the
American taxpayer of $500 million. Roughly two days' cost of the war
would be a very small price to pay to restore the health and vigor of
Iraqi society and to improve America's reputation throughout the world.
We should also encourage the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and
similarly established and proven nongovernmental organizations to
help with the rebirth of an Iraqi public-health system by rebuilding
hospitals and clinics. One reason for turning to respected
international organizations to supervise this program is that when
the CPA undertook the task, funds were squandered.
At last count, some seventeen years ago Iraq possessed an impressive
health-care infrastructure: 1,055 health centers, 58 health centers
with beds, 135 general hospitals, and 52 specialized hospitals. Many
of these facilities were badly damaged by a decade of sanctions and
by the recent warfare and looting. If we assume that fully half of
Iraq's hospitals and health centers need to be rebuilt, the overall
outlay can be estimated at $250 million, one day's cost of the
current war. Equipment might cost a further $170 million. These
figures, based on a study prepared for the United Nations Millennium
Development Goals project, throw into sharp relief the disappointing
results of the American "effort": one American firm, Parsons
Corporation, has been investigated for having taken a generous "cost
plus" contract to rebuild 142 clinics at a cost of $200 million;
although the company put in for and collected all the money, only
twenty clinics were built.
Estimating the cost of staffing these facilities is more complicated.
Theoretically, Iraq has a highly professional, well-trained,
reasonably large corps of health workers at all levels. Yet many of
these people left the country in the years following the 1991 war.
The Iraqi Health Ministry has estimated that about 3,000 registered
doctors left Iraq during the first two years of the American
occupation. Hopefully these workers will return to Iraq once the
occupation and the insurgency have ended, but even if they do so,
younger replacements for them need to be trained. The UNMDG study
suggests that the training period for specialists is about eight
years; for general practitioners, five years; and for various
technicians and support personnel, three years. We suggest that a
training program for a select number, say 200 general practitioners
and 100 advanced specialists, be carried out under the auspices of
the World Health Organization or Médecins Sans Frontières, especially
given that some of this training will have to be done in Europe or
America. Even if the estimated cost of building and equipping
hospitals turned out to be five times too low, even if the American
government had to cover the bulk of salaries and operating costs for
the next four years, and even if additional hospitals had to be built
to care for Iraqis wounded or made ill by the invasion and
occupation, the total cost would still be under $5 billion. It is
sobering to think that the maximum cost of rebuilding Iraq's
public-health system would amount to less than what we spend on the
occupation every twenty days.
* * *
The monetary cost of the basic set of programs outlined here is
roughly $7.25 billion. The cost of the "second tier" programs cannot
be as accurately forecast, but the planning and implementation of
these is likely to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $10 billion.
Seventeen and a quarter billion dollars is a lot of money, but
assuming that these programs cut short the American occupation by
only two years, they would save us at least $200 billion. Much more
valuable, though, are the savings to be measured in what otherwise
are likely to be large numbers of shattered bodies and lost lives.
Even if our estimates are unduly optimistic, and the actual costs
turn out to be far higher, the course of action we recommend would be
perhaps the best investment ever made by our country.
Finally, we as a nation should not forget the young Americans who
fought this war, often for meager pay and with inadequate equipment.
As of this writing, more than 2,600 of our soldiers have been killed,
and a far greater number wounded or crippled. It is only proper that
we be generous to those who return, and to the families of those who will not.
That said, we should find a way to express our condolences for the
large number of Iraqis incarcerated, tortured, incapacitated, or
killed in recent years. This may seem a difficult gesture to many
Americans. It may strike them as weak, or as a slur on our
patriotism. Americans do not like to admit that they have done wrong.
We take comfort in the notion that whatever the mistakes of the war
and occupation, we have done Iraq a great service by ridding it of
Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Perhaps we have, but in the process
many people's lives have been disrupted, damaged, or senselessly
ended. A simple gesture of conciliation would go a long way toward
shifting our relationship with Iraq from one of occupation to one of
friendship. It would be a gesture without cost but of immense and
everlasting valueand would do more to assuage the sense of hurt in
the world than all of the actions above.
George S. McGovem, the United Nations Giobai Ambassador on Hunger,
was the Democratic candidate for president in 1972. He is the author
of numerous books, inciuding The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our
Time. William R. Polk was a member of the Policy Planning
Councilresponsible for the Middle East and, later, professor of
history and founder-director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies
at the University of Chicago. His latest book on the Middle East is
Understanding Iraq. This essay was adapted from the book Out of Iraq
, which is being published this month by Simon & Schuster.