Editorial: All U.S. forces must leave Iraq

Faced with growing popular demand to end the Iraq war and bring American soldiers home quickly, and pressed by November elections that will decide the composition of Congress through 2008, the Bush administration has begun to talk about withdrawing some U.S. troops. “As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, President Bush said last November. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said present U.S. troop levels would not be needed “for very much longer” because Iraqi forces were becoming more effective.

At the same time, more has begun to emerge about the extent of the U.S. air war in Iraq. Citing U.S. military figures, the Washington Post reported last month that U.S. air strikes had escalated from about 25 per month earlier in the year to 120 in November. The Sunday Times of London said U.S. air strikes are expected to rise to at least 150 per month.

More has been revealed about future air war prospects by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. “A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower,” Hersh wrote in The New Yorker last month. Hersh also pointed out that “neither Congress nor the public has engaged in a significant discussion or debate about the air war.”

The U.S. military has made much of “smart” weaponry’s potential to reduce civilian casualties. But at TomDispatch.com Jan. 12, Michael Schwartz detailed repeated instances of U.S. “precision” air strikes causing extensive civilian deaths and injuries. Schwartz predicted that airpower alone “could kill well over 20,000 Iraqi civilians in 2006,” and that the rate of 1,000 civilian deaths per week since the Iraq war started, recorded by Johns Hopkins researchers in the famous study published early last year, “could be dwarfed in the coming year.”

It’s the job of the American peace majority to make sure that all U.S. forces leave Iraq. Nothing less will lay the basis for Iraqis to reconstruct their country in a unified and democratic manner.