As the stench of Bush-era Washington gradually spreads to envelop a globe where hypocrisy is the modus operandi of governments and the corporations they serve in every corner of the globe, Americans need to understand that they are not a uniquely noble people. The cultural malaise that has led to widespread abuses of "sand niggers" in Iraq cannot be blamed on Iraqis themselves; the democratic deficit that has led to a classic nineteenth century policy of spreading democracy and enlightenment to brown-skinned lands cannot be blamed on Old Europe. America is a dying nation, and it digs its grave almost happily.
Americans need to admit that they were lied into attacking Iraq, lied into killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and that the only acceptable penalty for such glaring stupidity is that they must pay massive reparations to the Iraqi people. The case for reparations is made with every suicide bomb explosion in Baghdad, every crisis, every death. If we take the median number of deaths for the Lancet study, the generally accepted estimate of deaths linked to US-UK sanctions after the first Gulf War, and the casualty figures from that first war, the West has violently killed some 2 million Iraqis, which is ten percent of the country's current population. A combined 3.5 million have been displaced within Iraq and in neighboring nations.
Imagine if Iraq had waged continual war on the United States from 1990 to the present day, and an estimated 30 million Americans had been killed, with 50 million more forced from their homes. Would reparations not be in order?
This war was about establishing a neoliberal colony in the heart of the Middle East; the (probably illegal) policies of Proconsul Bremer and the local raj that followed him have hollowed out Iraq's economy just as structural adjustment has done in countless Latin American, African, and Asian nations. Early on in his tenure, Bremer ended tariffs placed on food imports, an act that destroyed the millenia-old Iraqi agricultural tradition and has made the country completely reliant on other countries for its very survival. The food crisis in Iraq, like the alarming figure of deaths and displacements, can only be solved through reparations. Reparations are recognized under international law and laws of war as the appropriate penalty for an act of aggression by a wealthy state against an overwhelmingly poor one. This does not mean paying American companies to go to Iraq, hang out for a few months, and then leave without doing the reconstruction they have been entrusted. It means giving money to Iraqis and letting them do what they will. Even the widespread corruption in the Iraqi government (which began with the Bremer-led CPA) cannot be worse than that of the kleptocratic American reconstruction industry; as my fellow Iranian Reza Fiyouzat says in his recent tour-de-force, "in this day and age of post-industrialism, not even electricity is provided to the conquered peoples! That's how inept western imperialism has become. It can only destroy and do nothing more."
In any case, there is still profit from the veneer of reconstruction, with characteristic American superficiality--much as destruction has become a multi-billion dollar business, reconstruction has emerged as an industry to scoop up the second helping of profits from American state terror. This has been documented by various excellent journalists. The reconstruction industry can be seen as the natural extension of the military-industrial complex, long the jewel in the crown of American state capitalism. The cyclical nature of destruction and reconstruction allows for indefinite government investment, and thus indefinite private profits, often at the expense of any real reconstruction--but who cares? Ultimately, no one is going to see it except for the natives. Brilliant.
From a legal perspective, reparations should be required. From a moral and completely practical perspective, the billions spent thus far on reconstruction have not been effective--thus, reparations should be required. Reparations are the only humane way for the criminal American political class to contribute to stability in the country they have (most recently) destroyed. Any purportedly ethical discussion of withdrawal cannot leave out this issue.
Keep in mind, however, that on this issue, the US Congress (not to speak of the murderous MBA branch of government) isn't interested in even the standard ethical artifice; in fact, take note that "credible" mainstream resolutions on the de-escalation of the Iraq War do not call for full withdrawal of all troops (vs. "combat troops"). The relevant legislation put forth by heavyweights like Clinton and Obama call for redeployment. The corporate media, loathe to speak the truth, and the public usually unable or unwilling to seek it have not yet discussed the important differences between calls for withdrawal and redeployment (that last link is good for a laugh). There is a difference, and it has to do with something called oil.
The vapid, simple-minded narrative that "a new strategy" is justified because the United States has already invested plenty of "blood and treasure" in Iraq, and if Iraqis don't want to play nice, then we can't make them. It is nothing but repetition of the racist mantras necessary for the continuation of empire, as it presumes that the intentions of such an investment were noble, whereas the investment itself has been made entirely to the benefit of American capital. This is so glaringly obvious that members of Congress couldn't possibly talk about it.
Withdrawal isn't justified because Iraqis are too depraved to deserve American violence. It is justified because the war was a criminal act in the first place. It is justified because it what the Iraqi people, living under occupation, overwhelmingly want. This too should be obvious.