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December 7, 2006
The Consequences Of Withdrawal

The Times of London spells out the consequences of an American withdrawal on the many Iraqis who trusted us to see the mission through to completion. Speaking to several Iraqi Army non-commissioned officers, Ned Parker reports that several of them plan to flee their native land if the Americans pull out:

The Iraqi sergeant has dodged bullets from the al-Mahdi Army and traded fire with Sunni insurgents.

Yet in his years with the Iraqi Army he has learnt one simple lesson: once the US military pulls back in Iraq, he should leave the country if he wants to survive. “As soon as it happens, I will quit my job and live outside Iraq,” the sergeant told The Times.

“We need to give the Americans back all the authority over the Iraqi Army like before.”

Concerns abound that Iraq’s Defence Ministry is being manipulated to serve the interests of powerful Sunni and Shia political parties. A decision by the US military to hand over full control of Iraq’s Army to a Government plagued by sectarian interests, could well spell its ruin.

The sergeant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears that his criticism of the Government’s handling of the military could get him fired or killed, is one of several officers who complained to The Times of government threats against army units that have led raids against Sunni and Shia armed groups.

The Times has not been terribly supportive of the effort in Iraq, although they do not share the hostility for the mission that appears regularly in the Guardian. In this case, they show the real-life issues facing those who took America at its word and participated in the effort to build a democratic and secure nation from the debacle of Saddam's tyranny. The men and women in this position will find themselves isolated and targeted if the US loses its will to prevail -- and they know it.

The anonymous sergeant recounted the difficulties they already face with command decisions made by corrupt ministries. Mosques have increasingly been used to shelter snipers and other combatants. The American commanders taught the Iraqis that a mosque or a church ends its affiliation with God when it's used for violent purposes, a message that resonated with these men. They want to conduct raids on mosques where insurgents and terrorists launch attacks. However, the government won't let them invade Sunni mosques, and the Mahdi Army won't let them invade Shi'ite mosques. This results in the terrorists using even more mosques as they understand them to be safe havens for their operations.

And this is just a small segment of the people we will betray if we head for the nearest exit. We have won allies in business and Iraqi politics, and we have helped establish an independent judiciary. All of these will be left defenseless in the event of a precipitous withdrawal, and their only hope for survival will be to transform themselves into radicals for one cause or another. Either they will have to do that or flee Iraq altogether, and we may wind up looking at another "boat people" flood of displaced Iraqis wanting to escape to America for their freedom -- which will create a huge headache in separating the true freedom lovers from the terrorists that would no doubt take advantage of the situation to infiltrate our borders.

We had better take stock of all the implications of surrender. We have seen it before, in 1975 and the years that followed. It looks like we may need to prepare for it again.

Addendum: The Times of London has an interesting tag line on this story -- "The Times is the only British paper to maintain a full-time Baghdad bureau." I wonder how many American papers have one.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 7, 2006 5:07 AM

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