‘Bring ’em Home’

The banner said it all.

Positioned prominently at the front of Saturday’s anti-war march in Washington , carried by dozens of parents, spouses, and family members of American soldiers stationed in Iraq, its angry message was unmistakable: “Bush Says Bring ‘Em On, We Say Bring ‘Em Home Now!” That call — ‘Bring Them Home’ — was heard from speakers and marchers. It was blazoned on placards and banners. But protesters in Washington and San Francisco had other messages, too. Among the most popular: Dump Bush.

One of the Democratic hopefuls who would like to accomplish the latter goal, the Rev. Al Sharpton, took to the stage in Washington to champion the former. “President Bush and Tony Blair don’t make a world conference. Two men in a phone booth don’t speak for the world,” Sharpton declared, leading the crowd in a chant of ‘bring our troops home’.

Sharpton’s participation might be expected, given his political profile. But several mainstream papers found other, less predictable marchers: soldiers, sailors, and airmen. One such serviceman, an Air Force sergeant told Newsday that the Bush administration had “misused the U.S. troops in an ‘unjustified war’ in Iraq.”

    “In Washington, the sergeant, who could face deployment to Iraq, said he lives ‘two contradicting lives’ by working in the military and participating in the demonstration. Despite his reservations about war, he said he needs his job in the military to pay the bills. ‘I probably wouldn’t disagree with a person who calls me a hypocrite, but this war was wrong,’ he said.”

Like scores of other progressive pundits, Traci Hukill, writing for Alternet, agrees that the Bush administration’s war was unjustified. And she writes that “It is always good to see people fired up about something and doing something about that something; it’s even better when that something is the Bush administration’s voluminous catalog of misdeeds, missteps and misstatements of the truth.” But Hukill argues that the protesters, by calling for a U.S. withdrawal, are off the mark.

    “‘Ending the occupation now’ is not just an idea that will never see fruition, it’s a bad, irresponsible, naive one that would have disastrous consequences if it were carried out. Many of us — not enough, but many of us — think the United States never should have invaded Iraq. Now that it has done so — and yanked out the indigenous civil administration by its roots, fired the entire army and left Sunni snarling at Shiite and vice-versa — it, or someone, has to stay until the Iraqis themselves are on their feet. That means a civil service that can make sure the 60 percent of Iraqis who were fully dependent on U.N. food aid before the war get food, water and power. That means a national police force that can keep score-settling, theft, abductions and rape in check. That means a parliamentary structure that is representative enough and acceptable enough to citizens that they will allow differences to be settled in the political arena and not the streets.”

But, how long does that “someone” need to stay in Iraq? And how long should that “someone” keep running the country? Linda McQuaig of the Toronto Star argues that the Bush administration, eagerly pursuing a unilateral economic and security agenda in Iraq, has no interest in seriously entertaining either question. Just as the White House has no interest in entertaining the only realitic opotion proposed to date: Letting Iraqis run Iraq.

    “There are lots of problems with this solution, which was proposed last month by the president of France. The only thing in its favour is that the alternative — not handing Iraq over to the Iraqis right now — is even worse.

    It’s been suggested that the Iraqis, after decades of tyranny under Saddam, aren’t really ready for democracy.

    But democracy doesn’t guarantee good results, no matter how used to the institution people may be, as we saw in California earlier this month.”


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