Thursday, December 15, 2005

Win Without War: Statement

WASHINGTON - December 15 - Statement by Former U.S. Congressman Tom Andrews, National Director of the Win Without War Coalition:

Iraqi citizens go to the polls today following an election that was marred by the revelation of Bush administration attempts to manipulate the Iraqi electorate. The emergence of a government perceived as legitimate by the Iraqi people will require a change of course by the Bush administration.

The legitimacy of Iraqi elections were undermined by revelations in July of White House covert plans to manipulate elections early this year and recent reports of U.S. attempts to shape Iraqi public opinion through the placement of fake news in the Iraqi press.

President Bush’s unwillingness to announce a plan to remove U.S. troops within a clear time frame and his refusal to renounce the use of permanent U.S. military bases there undermines his rhetoric about Iraqi democracy and will undermine the legitimacy of the new Iraqi government. It is time for a fundamental change in direction.

Iraq can’t move forward with 140,000 unwanted U.S. troops, the largest embassy in the world, and with Iraqi public opinion behind a timetable for withdrawal. Two-thirds of Iraqis are opposed to the presence of U.S. troops according to a poll released on December 12 by ABC News and Time Magazine.

Rami Khouri, Editor-at-large of the Beirut based regional newspaper The Daily Star made it clear in Sunday’s Washington Post that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is the main obstacle to a politically legitimate Iraqi government:

“The single most important thing Iraq needs today is a politically legitimate government, from which security and other attributes on national and social normalcy would follow. America’s military presence and its political intervention in Iraq are the main obstacles to such a government and to a secure society in that country. Withdrawing U.S. military forces would prod and push Iraqis to agree more quickly on an inclusive and ideologically democratic government system.”

The political parties and coalitions competing in today’s election were divided along religious and sectarian lines and the campaign deepened these divisions. The security forces that President Bush is hoping will “stand up” so that U.S. forces can “stand down” are made up primarily of militia units that retain their original sectarian loyalties.

Arab voices through the Cairo process are helping change the dynamic in Iraq in a positive way and are filling a role that the U.S. no longer needs to play. They are calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces to make this possible. The President must work with the United Nations and Iraq’s Arab neighbors on a process that supports Iraq during the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The way out of Iraq begins by genuine respect for the will of the Iraqi people and their desire for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq. The president can begin to demonstrate this respect by putting an end to the attempted manipulation of Iraqi public opinion with fake news written by Pentagon contractors, the unambiguous announcement that the U.S. will not maintain permanent military bases there, and the immediate initiation of a coherent plan for the withdrawal of our forces in 2006. This will not only give vast majority of the Iraqi people what they want but the new Iraqi government its strongest chance for success.


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