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September 22, 2003

"Bring Troops Home" Wrong Slogan

Atrios wrongly criticizes Salon for publishing this article which argues the antiwar movement is being morally callous in focusing on "bringing the troops home" rather than on the well-being of the Iraqi people. Especially when matched with this examination of the disillusion of the pro-war liberals, Salon is doing a good job on giving texture to the debate on where progressives should be advocating in the post-Iraq war environment.

The author of the main article is no fan of Bush's lies or his motives in Iraq:

Using misinformation and propaganda to manipulate public opinion might be the coin of the corporate realm and political campaigns, but the behavior is profoundly undemocratic. So too with patronage, corruption, dishonesty and the deadly failures of postwar planning. It is essential to hold Bush and his allies accountable for their attacks on U.S. democracy and their failure to provide, as much as possible, for the security and well-being of the Iraqi people.
But his point is that the Left should be taking more seriously, now that the war has happened, how to help the Iraqi people get real democracy. But they are too bunkered down to engage in a positive argument:
The difficulty, for many on the left, is that the war and Bush seem inseparable, so that if you cheer the liberation, you seem to be cheering Bush and Cheney. But that perspective, too, is a form of shortsightedness.
I have to agree.

I've said that the fundamental failure of the antiwar movement was ignoring the real moral concerns and hopes of liberals like this author. They may be naive -- he admits as much -- but the desire for the Iraqi people to have a real democracy and human rights is an admirable one.

The Left should be praising the impulse even as it critiques Bush's good faith in this area.

And "Bring the Troops Home" is a morally chauvinist slogan, appealing to isolationism.

"Bring the UN In" would be more internationalist. "Iraqi Democracy Now" would be more based in human rights. "Iraqi Oil for the Iraqi Poor" would be more egalitarian.

Isolationism is on principle wrong, even if military intervention may be wrong as well. "Neither Isolationism Nor Militarism!" is another slogan I'd like.

The reality is that whether the US is intervening militarily or not, US dominance of the world still exists through economic and military proxies. Since I consider our trade policy enforcing patents as much part of US empire as any military adventures (and far more deadly given millions of deaths due to disease), I just think a negative focus on getting troops out misses the boat.

Frankly, a focus on democracy in Iraq should be our top priority. A real democratic regime in Iraq is more threatening to rightwing corporate US interests than allowing some Hussein-like dictator to arise who can just cut deals to sellout Iraqi interests to oil companies. Local dictators can with clear-eyed self-interest serve US interests just as effectively as direct US occupation. So if mere withdrawal of the US military leads to such a dictatorship, that is in no way a challenge to rightwing imperial goals.

The Support Democracy in Iraq icon is from the Iraqi blogger Salam Pax.

Update: Having let comments run for a bit, I wanted to note that my point was not that ending the occupation should not be a goal, just that it should end in the context of emphasizing broader purpose. If democracy for Iraqis is the goal, then getting US troops out and replaced with UN troops is no doubt needed. But the point is to change the rhetoric of the antiwar movement away from easy chauvinism and isolationism.

Posted by Nathan at September 22, 2003 12:24 PM