1. More of the same.
Basically continuing the current “strategy,” if that’s what it is, of
“training” Iraqi police and military forces while maintaining a more or
less full-scale occupation of the country. The fact that this approach
is already a proven failure in no way precludes its continuation, with
a few cosmetic changes here and there, at least until the end of Bush’s
term or the final collapse of the Iraqi government. This option will
very likely lead to full-blown civil war.

2. Phased withdrawal, in-country.
This would involve removing U.S. forces from direct occupation of Iraqi
cities. Some troops would go home, but most would relocate to the giant
permanent bases now being built in remote areas. These troops would
continue to “train” the Iraqi security forces, while essentially
abandoning the rest of the country to sectarian warfare until somebody
comes out on top and we can sign oil deals with them. If Bush swallows
the bone and decides to make any major changes, this is a likely
scenario. Its many drawbacks are apparent, as Cox outlines, but again,
the evident stupidity of a strategy rarely stops stupid leaders from
implementing it. This option will very likely lead to full-blown civil

3. Phased withdrawal, “over the horizon.”
This the option first bruited by Rep. Jack Murtha, the former defense
contractor bagman who unexpectedly became the point man for
Establishment criticism of the war. This involves pulling all U.S.
troops out of Iraq proper, but somehow keeping enough of them lurking
over the border so they can rush in at any time and help the Iraqi
government out of a jam. There are manifold difficulties with this
approach as well, not least how happily the surrounding Muslim nations
would welcome a long-term American military force darting in and out of
Iraq – and attracting reprisals from terrorists and Iraqi insurgents on
the host country’s soil. This option is really only a fig-leaf for a
later (or sooner) full withdrawal – at the “request” of the host
nations, no doubt. In any case, Bush will not choose this option,
because it defeats the entire purpose of the war – establishing a
permanent U.S. presence in Iraq to secure dominance (or at least a
tasty slice) of Iraq’s energy resources and serve as a linchpin for
further adventures in “full spectrum dominance” over geopolitical
affairs in a “new American century.” Such “hyper-power” dreams are of
course receding into the distance with each passing year, but that
doesn’t mean that true believers in unlimited power and wealth for the
American elite will stop chasing them. This option will very likely
lead to full-blown civil war.

4. Phased withdrawal, piecemeal.
This is similar to No. 3, except that as the troops come out, bit by
bit, they come home rather than move to some transborder base for
awhile. This approach could actually be the worst of all possible
worlds, leaving a dwindling number of troops to face an increasingly
powerful insurgency and ever more virulent sectarian militias, with
mounting deaths on all sides until the inevitable last-second bugout of
the handful of suckers left in the final “phase.” This option will very
likely lead to full-blown civil war.

5. Send in more troops. This
is the “McCain Option”: somehow scare up tens of thousands of new U.S.
troops, presumably without a draft, and fling ’em into the fire, then,
as Cox notes, “take the cities street by street and hold them through a
massive security and intelligence clamp-down.” But he also notes the
further undeniable truth: “It is of course politically inconceivable,
on either side of the Atlantic.” However, this is the only serious
option that would not very likely lead to full-blown civil war – mostly
because it would unite many of the Iraqi factions now at odds into the
mother of all insurgencies against the intensified occupation.

6. Immediate withdrawal
“immediate” here meaning as fast as humanly possible commensurate with
a more or less secure and more or less orderly extraction. The troops
come home, they don’t dawdle on the doorstep in some other country for
awhile. But Bush will certainly never adopt this option, and neither
will the Democrats, who, as Cox points out, will be too eager to prove
their still-vulnerable “national security” bona fides, especially with
the 2008 election looming, and blanch at being labeled the party who
“cut and ran” from Iraq. And yes, it goes without saying by now, this
option will very likely lead to full-blown civil war.

7. Help us, Syria! Help us, Iran!
This is the option now being proffered by Tony Blair (and mooted
earlier by Don Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert Gates). It is so lame and
unrealistic that it scarcely rates being mentioned at all, but there
will be a good deal of blather about it in the days to come, so it
should be dealt with. However, it is not entirely clear why either
nation – having been demonized without ceasing by the Bush Faction, and
put squarely in the frame for the old “path of action” regime change –
would leap to help America out its spot of bother in Iraq. Cox points
out the utter absurdity of this approach:

would doubtless involve some interesting elements. If the Iranians
promised to keep their hands off the Basra oilfields, perhaps they
could be allowed to develop whatever nuclear weapons they wanted, and
if they absolutely insisted on being given free rein to wipe Israel off
the map, well, there you go. Maybe Syria could be allowed to re-annex
Lebanon, in return for leaving Iraq’s Sunnis to their fate.

8. Partition.
This is another idea so bad that it can hardly be taken seriously –
except that it is taken seriously by a lot of people who, while perhaps
not serious themselves, are in serious positions. It was a favorite of
“conservative Democrats” in the last election, such as Tennessee’s
Harold Ford Jr. in his failed Senate race. Again, Cox deals with this
idea succinctly:

although the north is Kurdish and the south is Shia, most of the
cities, including Baghdad, are mixed. In any case, the integrity of
Iraq is the key to regional stability. An autonomous Shia south would
effectively become part of a greater, and more dangerous, Iran. The
Turks know that an independent Kurdistan would foster secession in
their own Kurdish south-east. The Syrians would feel obliged to support
their threatened Sunni co-religionists against the more numerous Shia.
Neither, Russia, Israel or Saudi Arabia could be expected to view such
developments with equanimity.

And, needless to say, this option would certainly lead to full-blown civil war.

are the options; this is the reality. What will the vaunted “Baker
Commission” do with this intractable material? Cox’s conclusion is, I
think, right on the money:

what’s going to happen is this: Baker will recommend the status quo
with minor variations, which will be hyped as dramatic revisions. Bush
will announce that he completely accepts every jot and tittle of the
Baker formula. What then? Bush has already signalled that,
understandably enough, he now wants a bipartisan approach to the
country’s problems. As soon as the Baker report is on his desk, he will
call in the leaders of both houses of Congress for a chat.

Democrats will doubtless see the dangers of such an invitation all too
clearly. However, Iraq has been their springboard to office. They will
hardly be able to refuse to engage with the issue when given the
chance. Indeed, Pelosi has already been talking of a “partnership” with
the White House to solve the country’s problems. To cut off the
Democrats’ escape route, Bush need only promise to accept any
amendments they may choose to make to the Baker scheme. Doubtless, they
will insist upon one or two tweaks, and flaunt them as major triumphs.
Sheepishly, though, they will have to acknowledge that in all other
respects the Bush-Baker scheme will pretty much have to do.

criticism of what will have become a joint approach will slowly begin
to subside. Thus reinforced, the policy will trundle on much as it does
now, bringing ever more misery in its wake. Voters will blame Congress
more than the White House for this state of affairs, because, unlike
Bush, the Democrats had appeared to promise a way out.

this point – assuming that anyone is still reading at this point – the
question arises: OK, Floyd, which of these horrible options would you choose?
In which particular way would you inflict even more pain and suffering
on the people of Iraq, who never asked to be invaded – or to be lorded
over by a tyrant who was put in place and kept in place for years with the helping hand of the United States?

I answered this question in April 2004 in a piece called No Direction Home: The Red Wheel of War Crime Keeps Rolling, and it still holds true for me today:

the red wheel of Operation Iraqi FUBAR continues to roll, spewing
hundreds of corpses in its wake, it becomes clearer by the hour that
there is only one way for America to end this stomach-churning
nightmare it has created: get out.

it. The occupying armies – including Bush’s 20,000 corporate
mercenaries – should leave now. They should never have been sent in the
first place on this ghoul’s errand: a war of aggression, a mission of
murder and plunder – the perversion of every enlightened value of the
civilization that the Coalition’s “Christian leaders” purport to

what a sickening spectacle these “leaders” presented last weekend:
George W. Bush and Tony Blair piously kneeling in prayer on Easter
Sunday, pledging their fealty to Jesus Christ and His teaching of mercy
and lovingkindness – while ordering missile strikes on crowded cities,
while filling hospitals with the mutilated bodies of young children,
while shoveling fat war profits to their cronies and contributors. Only
the most craven, bootlicking sycophant could fail to be revolted at the
hypocrisy of these murderous cynics. They are a perfect match in moral
idiocy for their crack-brained brother-in-arms, Osama bin Laden.

chest-beating pronouncements about “staying the course” and “seeing it
through” are just so much rag-chewing nonsense. The way to rectify a
crime is not to keep doing it – or in John Kerry’s ludicrous
formulations, to keep doing it in some different, “better” way – but simply to stop doing it.
The illegal invasion was a crime, the occupation is a crime, and if you
would not be a criminal, you must stop committing crimes.

the time, I admit I too entertained a fanciful notion that perhaps “a
United Nations force – made up of troops from counties acceptable to
the Iraqis – [could move in] to provide security and stability while
the Iraqis themselves reconstruct their society, hold elections, etc.
America and its war allies would have nothing to do with this
stabilization force, beyond helping to fund and supply it.” I noted
even then that this was a very slim and tenuous hope – and of course it
is a dead letter now. Under Bush’s rule, Iraq has been driven into ruin
and chaos far beyond the remedy of such a solution. Who would send
“peacekeeping” troops there now? And who in Iraq would now accept them?

one other aspect of the immediate withdrawal scenario I envisioned
could still be – and should still be – implemented today, if only to
mitigate in some small measure the horror that America will inevitably
leave behind, no matter what happens:

departing Americans should then give the $18 billion slush fund now
earmarked for Bush’s “reconstruction” bagmen to the Iraqi people, as
reparations for the Coalition’s war crime. Iraq’s foreign loans,
procured by Saddam Hussein from sugar daddies like George Bush I,
should be written off – and all of Little Bush’s imperial edicts
opening Iraq’s economy for despoliation by his cronies should be
rescinded. The United States and Britain should also be prepared to
take in the vast horde of refugees who will flee the hardline Islamic
regime that will doubtless be created in the ruins Bush has made of the
once-secular state.

too, I fell short of present reality. America owes the Iraqis far more
than $18 billion in reparations for Bush’s war crime of aggression. Of
course, they will get nothing of the sort – not one thin dime – from
either Republicans or Democrats. Nor will there be any move from either
party toward letting more dusky immigrants into the country, no matter
how imperative our moral obligation to do so.

so immediate withdrawal, while still the “best” option on the table, is
far worse now than it would have been a year ago, two years ago, three
years ago. Again, this is the reality. This is what we can’t escape.
There is no good way out. There is no good way forward. Tonight,
tomorrow night, and for nights uncounted to come, some innocent will
die in agony because of what we’ve done.

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