Kevin Zeese / Democracy Rising – 2005-11-22 09:08:18
Bring the Corporations Home and the Troops Will Follow
Former Vice Presidential Candidate Recants War Vote;
Suggests First Step to Iraq Exit —
Remove US Corporate Interests
Kevin Zeese / Democracy Rising
(November 15, 2005) — Former Senator John Edwards who ran for Vice President with John Kerry, has sent an email to his supporters saying “It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002.”
The email, which was published as a column in The Washington Post, admits that “Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003.” The vote was based on “flawed” and “manipulated” intelligence.
Edwards believes the world needs “moral leadership” but that the United States cannot play that role until it tells the truth and that includes accepting responsibility when “we’ve made mistakes or been proven wrong.”
Most of Edwards statement examines how the U.S. can extricate itself from Iraq. And, he puts forward – as a first step toward fixing the mess in Iraq – the withdrawal of US corporate interests from Iraq. Edwards says: “we need to remove the image of the imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation.”
Ralph Nader and I have consistently called for a “dual withdrawal of US corporate and military interests,” but this is the first time I’ve heard it recommended by others. And, suggesting the corporate withdrawal as a first step makes enormous sense.
By removing US contractors, the United States will be signaling to Iraq that they are getting their country back and a first step is getting their economy back. The tremendous unemployment in Iraq will be lessened by Iraqis being hired to rebuild their country. And, Iraqis will do a better job rebuilding Iraq than the United States has been able to do.
On October 18, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) issued a report on Iraq reconstruction.. He concludes “the efforts to rebuild Iraq are failing. The Administration has spent literally billions of dollars on reconstruction in Iraq, yet progress has been limited or nonexistent and much of the money has been squandered.”
His report on reconstruction particularly focused on the failure in three areas – oil, electricity and water.
• On oil the report finds the US has spent “over $2 billion and situation is actually worse off than when we arrived.”
• On electricity, the US has spent more than $4 billion in an effort to bring output up to 6,000 megawatts but the total output remains stagnant at 4,600 megawatts nearly the same as when the war began.
• And, on water, the US promised to provide clean, drinkable water to 90 percent of Iraqis but after spending over $1 billion one-third of Iraqis still do not have access to clean water.
The reason for the failure in reconstruction are two-fold – lack of security and monopoly contracts to companies like Halliburton. This resulted in no competition and then the Administration put in weak oversight of fulfillment to other private contractors with blatant conflicts of interest.
As Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, an Iraqi engineer who has been a long-term opponent of economic sanctions and US occupation points out, this reconstruction policy has negative consequences.
“US reconstruction policy — importing contractors rather than hiring Iraqis — fuels economic problems in Iraq. Fewer than 25,000 Iraqis are working on projects in the US reconstruction efforts.
In fact, the Bush administration concedes that less than one percent of Iraq’s workforce of seven million is currently involved in the reconstruction process. Most of Iraq’s reconstruction has been contracted out to American companies, rather than Iraqi or regional companies . This practice helps to maintain Iraq’s high unemployment rate. Obviously, this has a disastrous impact on Iraq’s economy.
“To make matters worse, the work to date has proceeded far too slowly, AND it is extremely expensive, but of substandard quality. After 24 months of occupation hundreds of government buildings are still destroyed. We Iraqis see NO visible sign of ongoing work on these buildings. Local contractors and government contracting companies are capable and qualified to do the reconstruction work. Money for these reconstruction projects is available.
As of June 22, 2004 the CPA had used ‘less than 2 percent of the reconstruction money lawmakers provided. The funds were meant to finance everything from training Iraqi police to starting small businesses to rebuilding the country’s electric, water, health, and oil production facilities.’”
John Edwards has made a valuable suggestion for policy makers and anti-war activists to consider — remove US corporate interests first. Take the profit out of reconstruction! Allowing Iraqis to rebuild their country will take some of the wind out of the sails of the insurgency. The US reconstruction has been failing anyway, perhaps it is time to give Iraqis a chance.
And by allowing Iraqis to rebuild their own infrastructure not only will it provide jobs and help the Iraq economy but it will let them know that they are responsible and that the US has no imperialist designs on their resources. Such a step would be the first smart move of the US occupation. Let’s see if anyone in the administration or Congress suggests it.
Kevin Zeese is director of Democracy Rising.
It Was a Mistake to Vote for the War
(November 15, 2005) — I was wrong.
I wrote these words about my vote to authorize the Iraq war in a Washington Post op-ed piece and I want to share my views with you as well.
Almost three years ago, we went into Iraq to remove what we were told — and many of us believed and argued — was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.
It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn’t make a mistake — the men and women of our armed forces and their families — have performed heroically and paid a very dear price. It is not right, just or fair that we made a mistake, but they pay for that mistake.
The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.
While we can’t change the past, we need to accept responsibility because a key part of restoring America’s moral leadership is acknowledging when we’ve made mistakes or been proven wrong —and to show that we have the creativity and guts to make it right.
The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the Americanpeople were hearing from the President — and that I was being told by our intelligence community — wasn’t the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.
George Bush won’t accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at almost every step: twisting intelligence to fit their pre-conceived views about Iraq’s threat; failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops; not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for peace.
Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater threat than it actually ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our presence there is draining the goodwill that our country once enjoyed, diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.
The urgent question isn’t how we got here, but what we do now. We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means leaving behind a success, not a failure.
What is success? I don’t think it is Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy. I think it is an Iraq that is relatively stable, largely self-sufficient, comparatively open and free, and in control of its own destiny.
A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives: reducing American presence; building Iraq’s capacity; and getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.
First, we need to remove the image of the imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation.
We also need to show Iraq and the world that we will not stay there forever. We’ve reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals.
Therefore, early next year, after the Iraqi elections and a new government has been created, we should begin the redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq. This should be the beginning of a gradual process to reduce our presence and change the shape of our military’s deployment in Iraq.
Most of these troops should come from National Guard or Reserve forces. That will still leave us with enough military capability, combined with better trained Iraqis, to fight terrorists and continue to help the Iraqis develop a stable country.
Second, this redeployment should work in concert with a more effective training program for Iraqi forces. We should implement a clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met. To increase incentives, we should implement a schedule outlining that as we certify that Iraqi troops are trained and equipped, a proportional number of US troops will withdraw.
Third, we must launch a serious diplomatic process that brings the world into this effort. We should bring Iraq’s neighbors and our key European allies into a diplomatic process to get Iraq on its feet.
It’s not just in America’s security interest for Iraq to succeed, but the world’s—- and the President needs to create a unified international front.
Too many mistakes have already been made to make this easy. Yet we must take these steps to succeed. The American people, the Iraqi people and -—most importantly — our troops who have died or been injured there and those who are fighting there today deserve nothing less.
America’s leaders — all of us — need to accept the responsibility we each carry for how we got to this place. Over 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in this war; and over 150,000 are fighting there today. They and their families deserve honesty from our country’s leaders. And they also deserve a clear plan for a way out.