June 30: End the Occupation!

On the front door of my house is a sign, “Bring the Troops Home Now!” It’s been there for months. I hope it’s not there for years.

Events in Iraq over the past few weeks could mean a speeded up timetable for ending the U.S./British occupation, but this will happen only if the peace movement in this country and internationally siezes the political opportunity that has opened up for us.

As this is being written the special United Nations envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, has called for the replacement of the puppet “Iraqi Governing Council” with a new, broadly-based and politically legitimate interim body to govern until elections are held nine months from now. Somewhat surprisingly, Bush and Blair have publicly welcomed this development and indicated their willingness to work with the U.N. in moving this proposal forward.

Why are they doing this? Clearly, it is because they are in deep s__t in Iraq, more and more isolated, more and more hated, more and more floundering about in the face of a growing and deepening Iraqi armed resistance movement. Internationally, they face the withdrawal of Spanish troops by June 30th, public criticism by a top Polish leader and continued opposition from many governments.

Within this context, Blair and Bush have opted to get behind the U.N. proposal with the intention of influencing how it is implemented so that they can remain the dominant force in Iraq, whatever the changed character of the supposedly “sovereign,” new Iraqi regime.

It would be a very big mistake, however, for the peace movement to accept this situation and make no effort to intervene politically. There’s a lot of fluidity right now.
An expected new U.N. Security Council resolution will offer opportunities for the countries which opposed the Iraq war to assert their influence. In the case of France, Germany, China and Russia, their economic interests in Iraq and/or their fear of U.S. domination of the Middle East and its oil could mean that they will not acquiesce to U.S./British manipulations to get another pro-occupation Iraqi interim government. Hopefully our sisters and brothers in those countries and elsewhere will be able to bring heavy pressure to bear toward that end.

While we are opposed to all forms of domination and imperialism, the fact is that at particular historical moments the divisions between competing imperialist powers can be utilized by the people’s movements to push back the most vicious and dangerous plans and open up possibilities for victories.

Here in the United States, increasing numbers of people are questioning this continuing “quagmire” of military occupation. We need to be out there organizing and talking to them as visibly as possible, demanding that Congress make June 30th truly a time when sovereignty is returned to the Iraqis via a withdrawal of U.S. troops and the turning over of policing and peace-keeping decision-making to a new, representative, interim body. It is that body-not the U.S. and not the U.N.–which must be clearly authorized by the U.N. as the body to make decisions about the composition and functioning of police and peace-keeping forces to deal with the extensive crime wave that is hurting large numbers of the Iraqi people. This body must be fully in charge of the political process leading toward democratic elections, calling upon whatever international resources and assistance they decide is needed.

Progressive members of Congress, like Dennis Kucinich, should take the initiative to introduce legislation demanding that the U.S. announce its plans to withdraw troops by June 30th and begin doing so.

John Kerry should be publicly urged and pressured to do the same. Although he’s unlikely to take such a step, massive political pressure from below could force him to take stronger positions than his current ones.

Ralph Nader should make this a major issue right now. He should issue a public statement along these lines, following the lead of Green Party potential Presidential candidate David Cobb. If he meets with Kerry soon, as press reports have indicated is to be happening, this should be one of the major issues on which he presses him.

May 15th is Armed Forces Day. Perhaps this is a day for large local peace demonstrations all over the country.

In whatever ways are possible we must all raise the demands, “Troops Home by June 30th; End the Occupation!”

Political movements that are effective are able to recognize historical moments for what they are and take action accordingly. It seems to me we are at such a moment in the case of Iraq. Although the odds are long that we will succeed in getting the troops home by June 30th, or an announcement out of the Bushites that they intend to withdraw the troops anytime soon, the public discussion about June 30th being the date that Iraqis are supposed to regain their sovereignty opens up the possibility of making huge political inroads. We need to sieze the time.