President Obama, listen and listen good; the Iraqis want an end to the American occupation of their country, and so do the American people. Please do not let the Pentagon convince you otherwise. The Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq (SOFA) stipulates that all forces will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011. In the way such agreements are written, it allows wriggle room for the troops to stay beyond that date. Wikipedia puts the terms of the agreement thus:
"It establishes that U.S. combat forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011, subject to possible further negotiations which could delay withdrawal and a referendum scheduled for mid-2009 in Iraq which may require U.S. forces to completely leave by the middle of 2010."
The American and Iraqi governments decided that the wishes of the Iraqi people were of no importance, and no referendum took place to decide whether they wished an earlier withdrawal as required by the agreement. Now it seems the Pentagon is pushing to delay the withdrawal beyond the final date. They are trying to manipulate and pressurize the Iraqi government to ask America to delay the date of withdrawal, no talk of a referendum. The Americans have a cunning plan; it is simple! Call the American soldiers trainers (mudaribun). Then, never mind a referendum; you do not even need to get the approval of the Iraqi Parliament. The Iraqi people know all about rebranding, after all they experienced the rebranding of a brutal occupation as liberation.
Every day that the occupation continues is a reminder to Iraqis of the death, misery and humiliation they suffered. They need to be left alone to make the compromises necessary for a peaceful democratic Iraq; they need to relearn to trust each other beyond the narrow confines of sects and ethnic groups.
The psychological barriers that afflict the rulers and the ruled in a country under occupation are particularly severe in Iraq. They have somehow sucked the initiative from its rulers and have destroyed the pride the people had in their country. People are demoralised and bewildered by the man-made catastrophe that has severely degraded their lives.
It is a measure of the abject failure of successive governments following the illegal war on Iraq in 2003, that a great number of people look back with fondness and nostalgia at an Iraq prior to that war, run by a brutal dictator and suffering under a U.S.-British sponsored blockade that caused the deaths of up to half a million Iraqi children. The incompetence and corruption of governments that have run Iraq since the invasion is breathtaking.
The democracy that supposedly exists in Iraq is no more than a grab of its resources, the spoils of war, to be shared by voracious American and western corporations, arms manufacturers, private security firms and the corrupt elite of the sects and ethnicities that make up the mosaic of Iraqi society.
Politics are conducted on the basis of quotas; people vote in elections not on the basis of competing policies or ideas but on the basis of ethnicity, or a religious sect. The illegal war has melted the glue of humanity that has welded Iraqi society together for centuries.
Iraqi rulers work in the green zone protected by American soldiers and foreign security contractors living the good life, and have no concerns with the minutiae of the blighted lives of Iraqi citizens. They do not give a jot about the daily struggles of ordinary Iraqis regarding security, clean water, medical care, electricity and the other necessities of life. Why should they care when they are totally insulated from the hardships suffered by ordinary citizens, ensconced as they are, on a different planet, in the green zone.
In whose interests is the continuation of the occupation for which American soldiers are being killed or injured on an almost daily basis? The New York Times reports that June 2011 has been the worst month for American casualties (15), since June 2008. In whose interests are American tax dollars being spent? It is certainly not in the interests of ordinary Americans or Iraqis who have shown in poll after poll that they want the occupation to end. If you don't trust the polls, hold a referendum.
Why is the American government putting pressure on their puppets in Iraq to allow them to stay beyond the final agreed date of December 31, 2011? What could they possibly achieve that they have not been able to achieve in eight years of occupation? Extending the stay against the wishes of the Iraqi people risks invigorating sectarian militias, such as the Mehdi Army, that may well reignite the civil war, which at its height was causing Iraqi civilian deaths of the order of 3,000 a month.
The continued occupation that's caused death, injury and misery to millions can't be part of the solution; it is the problem. The fires of sectarianism and terrorism lit by war will only be quelled when the occupation ends. Please end it on December 31, 2011, no ifs, no buts.