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The Insanity of 'Staying the Course' in Iraq

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Underlying the "stay the course" argument is a fundamentally flawed assumption that U.S. troops are at least keeping havoc in check. But every year of the occupation has brought about worsening violence, peaking during a summer that saw thousands of Iraqi civilians killed each month. The Washington Post reported that last month "the number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq has surged to its highest monthly level in nearly two years," and Reuters added that "bomb attacks in Baghdad have hit an all-time high ..." Studies by the Saudi government and a respected (and hawkish) Israeli think tank found that most of the insurgents in Iraq had never engaged in political violence but were radicalized by the occupation itself. The recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate predicts that with American troops on the ground, the insurgency in Iraq will grow and fester over the next two years.

But more importantly, the U.S. presence creates a Catch-22. One of the biggest problems in Iraq is that its fledgling government has little legitimacy, and a large part of that problem comes from a widespread perception that it remains subservient to U.S. commanders. According to a recent poll by the Project on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), Iraqis, by a 5 to 2 margin, thought that a U.S. commitment to withdraw would "strengthen the Iraqi government." Three out of four believe an American withdrawal would make the various factions in Iraq's parliament more willing to cooperate with one another.

Eight out of ten Iraqis believe the U.S. military presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing," and they're in the position to know best. Just 14 percent said the U.S. forces were having "a positive influence on the situation in Iraq."

The idea that Iraq will spiral out of control if U.S. forces withdraw has been hammered home since the beginning of the occupation by the war's supporters, but while it's a danger, it is also anything but the certainty that's become part of the conventional wisdom. Seventy percent of Iraqis have confidence that their police force can maintain order.

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http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/42741/

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