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VIEWS AND VOICES
A closer look at the loopholes in the McGovern bill
A not-so-antiwar proposal

September 29, 2006 | Page 12

CHARLES JENKS of the Traprock Peace Center writes on the McGovern bill for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

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THE PROGRESSIVE Democrats of America (PDA) trumpets its continued support of Rep. James McGovern's bill (HR 4232) as "a top legislative priority." PDA urges all to sign its petition to support the bill, as PDA is "committed to cutting off all funding for the deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq and for the removal of all funding for the occupation of Iraq."

PDA assures its members and Web site visitors that the bill would "end all funding for the deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq; would "in no way prohibit nor interrupt U.S. non-defense funding" in support of "democratic institution building" and reconstruction; and that the bill "provides for the safe, orderly, and honorable withdrawal of the United States from military operations in Iraq.

"By continuing U.S. support for the economic and social reconstruction of Iraqi society and the financial and material needs of Iraqi security, it maintains our moral and political obligations to the Iraqi people, while concretely promoting, supporting, and providing for greater multilateral engagement in these serious tasks," according to the PDA.

Code Pink and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) also support this bill.

Warning flags should go up by just reading PDA's pitch for the bill. The bill would not get in the way of the U.S. meddling in governing Iraq--or as PDA puts it "democratic institution-building." And the bill provides for continued financial and material support for the "security" forces (secret police, military and uniformed police) that the U.S. has established in Iraq.

So a lot of dirty business is allowed by the bill, but how to do that without U.S. troops? Well, there's more to the story, a story not told by PDA in its pitch. How would the U.S. hope to continue shaping Iraq's governing institutions and its internal "security" forces without U.S. troops? (A hint: take a look at how the U.S. is trying to do it in Afghanistan.)

The bill has certain exceptions to the prohibition of funds to "deploy or continue to deploy the Armed Forces to the Republic of Iraq." These exceptions show that the bill is a farce, and that PDA has bought, or is trying to sell, a proverbial bill of goods.

The exceptions: It "shall not apply to the use of funds to...provide for the safe and orderly withdrawal of the Armed Forces from Iraq; or...ensure the security of Iraq and the transition to democratic rule by...carrying out consultations with the Government of Iraq, other foreign governments, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations, and other international organizations; or...providing financial assistance or equipment to Iraqi security forces and international forces in Iraq."

Under this bill's exceptions, the U.S. could continue its occupation of Iraq. Under the first exception, "safe and orderly" withdrawal has no timeframe whatsoever. The military and executive branch would determine what is "safe and orderly." Can one imagine such a withdrawal lasting indefinitely, if it's left up to the people who are executing the war and occupation of Iraq? The lack of even an outside date is telling.

Under the second exception, the U.S. could use funds to continue to "ensure the security of Iraq and transition to democratic rule." Which international military force is mentioned first in these "consultations?" NATO, the same NATO (via its International Security Assistance Force) that is trying (and failing) to help the U.S. occupy Afghanistan.

On top of using NATO, or United Nations (UN) proxies, the U.S. could still pour unlimited funds into the hands of Iraqi-led internal security forces--the same forces that are now riddled with Shiite militias and are aiding and abetting, if not operating, death squads aimed at the Sunni population.

Moreover, the U.S. could use unlimited funds to pay for U.S.-led private "security" contractors, which are ubiquitous in Iraq as it is, or pay for proxy forces provided by foreign governments.

Halliburton would have nothing to fear from this bill. And if U.S. troops were assigned to NATO or the UN, and under NATO or UN command, would these troops then be considered part of "international forces in Iraq" that could be funded?

In a nutshell, the U.S. could get its troops out--at a time of its choosing, after an unspecified period in the name of safety and order--but ensure that Iraq continues under foreign occupation indefinitely. And during this continued occupation, the U.S. would have no restraints on meddling the Iraq's government or internal security forces.

And PDA calls this "honorable?" Perhaps so, if honorable means trying to win without (the U.S. having to bear more casualties of) war.

Finally, the concept of an "honorable" withdrawal seems like a sick joke, considering that the U.S. is responsible for the deaths and maiming of untold numbers of Iraqis, (well over 100,000 deaths, per the Lancet Medical Journal study as of September 2004); the littering of Iraq with depleted uranium--a cancer-causing radioactive neurotoxin--and unexploded cluster bombs; the wrecking of Iraq's infrastructure and society; and the unleashing of a sectarian civil war.

Hear audio of a recent discussion about the McGovern bill featuring Charles Jenks, Gael Murphy (Code Pink and UFPJ) and Ann Wright (retired colonel and former State Department official).

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