On November 4, 2005, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts introduced a bill whose purpose is to “prohibit the use of funds to deploy United States Armed Forces to Iraq.” This bill, numbered HR 4232, is co-sponsored by twelve other representatives, including Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). The bill was immediately referred to the House Armed Services and International Relations Committees, where it will remain until the Speaker decides to bring it to the floor. This in itself makes it likely that any full House discussion of this bill will not occur in the near future, if ever.
For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that it will make it to the House floor as it is written and it will make it there during this session of Congress. Making these assumptions, let’s take an honest look at what this bill demands. “(a) Prohibition — Except as provided in subsection (b), funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may not be obligated or expended to deploy or continue to deploy the Armed Forces to the Republic of Iraq.” This portion seems straightforward enough. Plain and simple, it states that no more funds be appropriated or used to send any more US military forces to Iraq. If one opposes the war in Iraq, they certainly can’t argue with this provision. “(b) Exception — Subsection (a) shall not apply to the use of funds to — (1) provide for the safe and orderly withdrawal of the Armed Forces from Iraq.” This subsection is also hard to argue with. After all, it will cost some money to bring all of the troops home from their bases in Iraq. But the exception expands. “[O]r (2) ensure the security of Iraq and the transition to democratic rule. . . .” This is where the bill begins to become meaningless in terms of an immediate and complete withdrawal of all occupation forces from Iraq.
If we read on, we discover that Mr. McGovern’s bill as introduced is not really a demand for an end to the foreign occupation of Iraq. Instead, it is just a call to replace US forces with forces from other nations’ militaries — nations that would coordinate everything with the US and its intelligence agencies.
How is Washington to “ensure the security of Iraq and the transition to democratic rule” according to the bill? By “(A) carrying out consultations with the Government of Iraq, other foreign governments, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations, and other international organizations. . . .” Which nations might Mr. McGovern have in mind? Why, first and foremost of course, other nations with colonialist histories and potential economic interests in Iraq. By this, I mean the NATO countries, who, despite their differences prior to the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, would all like to have a piece of the oil pie that is part and parcel of what Iraq is to the major capitalist alliance (or NATO). As for the UN, its recent history regarding Iraq does not place it in the Iraqi peoples’ circle of friends. After all, it was the UN Security Council that enforced the murderous sanctions against that country’s people for over ten years and has looked the other way whenever Washington and London violated their part of any agreement made after the first Gulf War. Then, of course, there is the so-called government of Iraq. In other words, the government composed of men and women handpicked by the current regime in Washington, completely funded by this same regime, and as recent statements by the Iraqi president regarding US plans to attack Syria from Iraq made clear, unable to act in any meaningful manner without the approval of the men and women in power in DC. In short, this is where Mr. McGovern’s (and his co-sponsors’) good intentions fall apart.
To repaet, this bill, if enacted, would only replace US troops with other occupying forces. Iraq would continue to be occupied and the bloodshed would continue. The intentions of the invasion and occupation would not change, just the nationalities of the occupying troops. Washington would still be pulling the strings, although the spoils would have to be shared among those who participated in this charade. Given the nature of the battleground in Iraq, any nation willing to send its troops to replace those the US would withdraw would want an awful big piece of the pie. So, on a very practical level, it is quite unlikely that any government would even volunteer its military for such a role.
“(B) providing financial assistance or equipment to Iraqi security forces and international forces in Iraq.” More of the same. This provision would continue the funding of the Iraqi military and police forces, including the various death squads and other covert ops groups now in place. This means that the mission of the Iraqi forces would change very little, if at all. They would continue to attempt to impose Washington’s designs (as expressed through its Iraqi clients), using whatever troops ended up replacing uniformed US forces under provision (A) above.
“(c) Rule of Construction — Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit or otherwise restrict the use of funds available to any department or agency of the Government of the United States (other than the Department of Defense) to carry out social and economic reconstruction activities in Iraq.” This sounds like a caveat to continue any and all covert operations currently going on in Iraq. Throughout its history, the CIA has operated under the auspices of providing various types of aid to whatever countries it is operating in. Indeed, one of the the agency’s primary vehicles operates under the acronym of USAID (US Agency for International Development). What this provision does is enable most of the US government in all its disguises to continue business as usual in Iraq. The only agency that would be forbidden to do so is the Department of Defense (DOD). So, any operations deemed necessary to US designs for Iraq and currently operating under the aegis of the DOD would have to be moved to some other agency. This includes the huge numbers of so-called security contractors in that country, many of whom are actually in the employ of US intelligence agencies. Like I’ve said before, it’s a shell game.
Is this bill the real thing? Should the antiwar movement support it? Let me put it this way. It’s a beginning — albeit a small one. The members of Congress who have attached their names to the bill include some of Congress’s most outspoken opponents of the Iraqi invasion and occupation, which means their intentions are genuine. But we all know about roads paved with good intentions. Still, the very fact that there is a bill in Congress that even considers the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is a step in the right direction. Yet, as I briefly point out here, this bill is not enough. It does not fundamentally change the situation for the people of Iraq. The proposed legislation continues the scenario whereby the US-created government in Baghdad is answerable to Washington and not to the Iraqi people. It replaces one set of foreign troops with another. It enhances the power of the Iraqi military and it allows the continued presence of US covert operators (and private companies in their employ) inside Iraq. Indeed, it makes the likelihood of enhanced use of covert ops more likely in the absence of traditional military assaults. Most important of all, this bill continues to deny the Iraqi people their sovereignty. The resolution is not about guaranteeing Iraqi self-determination; it’s about the continued determination of Iraq’s future by Washington and its co-conspirators.
To put it bluntly, this bill’s only provision should be that the US get out lock, stock, and barrel and leave no other occupying military force to replace it. As long as the client government in Iraq depends on outside forces for its support (and not the Iraqi people), not only will it continue to ignore those Iraqis opposed to it, it will never be independent, since the occupier can overrule any of its decisions. As I’ve noted before, if the government had to depend on the Iraqi people for its support, it would be more likely to compromise with its opposition, armed and otherwise. Then the beginnings of a just and representative democracy would have a chance in Iraq.
Don’t put away your protest placards yet. Indeed, the antiwar movement has momentum on its side, but it risks being maneuvered into a scenario that either replaces one occupying force with another (without any genuine input from the Iraqi people) or, as a Nation editorial called for on November 9, 2005, a nebulous demand for a withdrawal as quickly as possible — whatever that means. We need to repeat, until we are heard, the only demand: immediate and unconditional withdrawal.
Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground, just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch‘s new collection on music, art and sex: Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.