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Immediate Withdrawal


We do not know whether Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote yesterday’s leader on “Britain’s post-invasion commitment to Iraq”, but we assume that he approved it. (‘Signposting the Exit,’ The Guardian, September 21, 2005)

“No one is arguing for an immediate pull-out”, the editorial claims.

Presumably those calling for an immediate withdrawal, including many in the anti-war movement, do not exist.

“No one” includes Caroline Lucas, Green Euro-MP, one of many speakers who called for “the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq”
at a ‘Troops Out Now’ rally in central London on March 19, 2005.
(Green Party news release, March 18, 2005)

“No one” includes Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War coalition. In a Guardian comment piece ahead of the same rally, he called for “the occupation [to be] brought to a speedy end, our troops brought home, and full sovereignty restored to the Iraqi people”. (Murray, ‘No escape from the war,’ The Guardian, March 16, 2005)

“No one” includes Rose Gentle, who lost her 19-year-old son Gordon, killed by a roadside bomb in Basra. She helped form the Justice for Gordon Gentle campaign, and has been campaigning for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. She told a public rally in Glasgow last year:

“Gordon’s pals came home last night and he could have been here. I feel his life was wasted by going into an illegal war. I will not stop calling for the troops to come home.” (Cameron Simpson, ‘Mother says she feels her son’s life was wasted,’ The Herald, December 8, 2004)

“No one” includes American mother Cindy Sheehan, who also lost a son in Iraq. Mrs Sheehan has been conducting a “Bring Them Home Now” bus tour in the US. In calling for troops to be “brought home immediately”, she exhorted Bush: “You can’t win the war on terror by killing more of our soldiers and innocent Iraqi people. You are breeding more terror.” (Sheehan, ‘My response to George,’ August 24, 2005; http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/24483/)

“No one” includes more than half of the US public. When asked how long American troops should remain in Iraq, 52 per cent interviewed called for an immediate withdrawal, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. (Raymond Hernandez and Megan Thee, ‘Iraq’s Costs Worry Americans, Poll Indicates,’ New York Times, September 17, 2005)

“No one” includes Iraqis themselves. Guardian comment editor Seumas Milne observed last year that “polls show most Iraqis want foreign troops out now”. (‘If the US can’t fix it, it’s the wrong kind of democracy,’ The Guardian, November 18, 2004) Does the Guardian think Iraqi opinion doesn’t count?

“No one” includes the Guardian’s new columnist Simon Jenkins who wrote this week:

“Don’t be fooled a second time. They told you Britain must invade Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong. Now they say British troops must stay in Iraq because otherwise it will collapse into chaos.

“This second lie is infecting everyone. It is spouted by Labour and Tory opponents of the war and even by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell.” (Jenkins, ‘To say we must stay in Iraq to save it from chaos is a lie,’ The Guardian, September 21, 2005).

One can debate what timescale is implied by “immediate” withdrawal. Many peace activists propose a deadline of Christmas 2005. A rally taking place this Saturday in Hyde Park will call for the withdrawal of troops to be completed by then (www.stopwar.org.uk). A letter in support condemning the continued occupation of Iraq as “an unmitigated disaster”, was signed by 100 academics, MPs and activists, and delivered by musician Brian Eno and actor Julie Christie to Downing Street last week. Signees also included Richard Dawkins, Harold Pinter, Ken Loach, A L Kennedy, George Monbiot, Tony Benn, John Pilger and former UK ambassador Craig Murray. (Ben Russell, ‘Arts world unites for plea to pull troops out of Iraq,’ The Independent, September 16, 2005)

Calling for a rapid withdrawal of ‘coalition’ troops does not mean accepting that the people of Iraq will be required to suffer even worse chaos and violence. US historian and peace activist, Howard Zinn, comments:

“The UN should arrange, as US forces leave, for an international group of peacekeepers and negotiators from the Arab countries to bring together Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and work out a solution for self-governance that would give all three groups a share in political power. Simultaneously, the UN should arrange for shipments of food and medicine, from the United States and other countries, as well as engineers to help rebuild the country.” (Zinn, ‘How to get out of Iraq,’ The Nation, May 6, 2004)

But this is an inconceivable option for warmonger Tony Blair, his faithful retinue of ministers, and his supporters in the media who, on the evidence to date, include the ‘liberal’ Guardian.

 

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