While I’ve opposed the war in Iraq since the get-go, I’ve often wondered how we can now extricate ourselves from that mess — provided, of course, that we really do want to leave before all the oil is privatized and securely in American hands.
Presuming we do, which is a pretty big presumption, considering that’s why we went over there in the first place, the answer, according to Iraqi journalist Raed Jarrar, is quite simple: just leave.
That’s right. Pack our bags, pick up and go.
“I also worry about what will happen, but really, it’s nobody’s business but ours,” he said. “Let Iraqis take care of that. Iraqis will fill the void because they are the ones there, and they know how to fill the void.”
Jarrar, who spoke last night to a group of about 100 at an event sponsored by the Kaua‘i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice, the Associated Students of KCC and the American Friends Service Committee, is confident his countrymen can work things out on their own.
After all, he said, Iraq has existed as a nation for 6,000 or 7,000 years, and has had no civil or sectarian war in the last 1,500 years. It’s been attacked or occupied 20 times during that period, and always managed to defend itself against the aggressors or kick them out.
“There is not one precedent of after kicking out the foreign invaders, the sky fell,” Jarrar said.
On the other hand, some 1 million Iraqis have died violent deaths and another 5 million have been displaced from their homes since America invaded. That amounts to one-quarter of the nation’s population. Of those who remain, 75 percent have no access to basic services, he said.
“Who would believe that after five years of this Iraqis would be saying, ‘please stay and occupy us?’ They want the U.S. out and they want to be left alone. This is the message that is never heard.”
As Jarrar sees it, the struggle now is between those who want to partition the country, privatize its resources and keep the Americans around — a group he said is in the decided minority, and supported heavily by the U.S. — and those who do not.
Despite what is presented in the mainstream media, it’s not a religious or sectarian struggle, he said. “It’s very political and economic and both sides have all of the sects represented. They’re fighting over oil.”
The U.S., which is spending $720 million per day on the war, “on killing people,” has spent $22 billion training Iraqi forces over the past five years in order to fan the flames of divisiveness, he said.
The forces that have been trained “are the same militias who defend the five (minority faction) parties. They just changed hats, and with the same line of command, were put into the Army. They are the forces who are responsible for the sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing. Supporting them is nothing to brag about," he said.
“The only way to achieve peace in Iraq and end the violence is to completely withdraw all the troops without any permanent bases or any mercenaries and give Iraq back to the Iraqis.”
While Iraqis were not happy under Saddam Hussein, he said, the government did have its good points, providing citizens with free social services that were among the best in the world, and low-cost gas and electricity.
“Iraqis never thought their life would be worse than under a dictator who killed them for expressing their opinion,” said Jarrar, who also took his message to three classes at Kapaa High School, where the kids are being heavily courted by military recruiters.
“But even if the Americans had made Iraq a heaven on Earth, which they haven’t, it would still be an illegally occupied nation and Iraq should protest against the occupation. There is nothing to justify occupying another nation.”
His words underscored comments that Nani Rogers made at the beginning of the program, when she outlined America’s occupation of Hawaii for the past 115 years. She also told of her experiences in meeting with indigenous people from Vieques and Majiro, who suffered the loss of their land and health problems as a result of American military activities and occupation.
Rogers, a Native Hawaiian, said she never chose to be part of America, a nation “that destroys other nations, all for their greed of power and money, and in the case of Iraq, oil.”
Jarrar, who now lives in the U.S., obviously made a different choice. Still, he shares Rogers' concerns about America's aggressiveness, which has expanded beyond the Pacific into the Middle East. He said his wife, Niki, observed that while Americans justified their incursions into the Middle East by saying the women were too covered up and needed to be freed from their robes and veils, the American missionaries had said the Hawaiian women were too free and naked, and needed to be covered up.
Either way, it amounts to people from one nation improperly imposing their will and values on another.
"There's a bully on the block that needs to be stopped," he said.
For more by Jarrar, check out his blog.