As I’ve previously noted, the Bush Administration has recently made clear that they have no intention of leaving Iraq, that they’re doing their best to ensure that the next president will have trouble doing so, and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates just announced that he wants to prevent our troop levels in Iraq from dropping below 130,000. Well, Reuters has this interesting news:
U.S. forces should keep withdrawing from Iraq this year without a pause, Iraq’s national security adviser said on Wednesday, disagreeing with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, whose post gives him a senior security role in the Iraqi government, said he would like to see U.S. forces draw down steadily to below 100,000 by the end of 2008.
Hmm. Wonder who will win that argument.
And al-Rubaie also had some words to which Democrats need pay close attention:
He also said he thought it was unlikely American Democratic Party candidates for president would be able to keep pledges to rapidly pull out U.S. forces if they are elected this year to succeed President George W. Bush.
Since November, Bush has been laying the groundwork to ensure that our occupation is made permanent. That will be difficult to reverse, but it’s also worth noting that both Senators Clinton and Obama offer Iraq withdrawal plans that include keeping the current “embassy,” including a force to guard it, which will undoubtedly number in the thousands. That “embassy” will be the largest in the world, and according to this Congressional Budget Office estimate (pdf), it will cost more than a billion dollars a year to maintain and secure!
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will need our support, when attempting to dismantle the structures Bush has put in place to indefinitely perpetuate the occupation; but whoever that nominee turns out to be will also need us to keep pushing for a more aggressive withdrawal strategy. That embassy must go. Unless we can have a normal embassy, with a normal embassy staff, we should have no embassy at all, in Iraq. The occupation must end, and as long as we maintain that “embassy,” our presence in Iraq cannot be defined as anything else.