The Rant 

A few reminders: Iraq is not our country. Our invasion and occupation are illegal, being in violation of both international law and our own traditions. We were lied into war. We are still being lied to. Both the Bush administration and the Democrats intend to maintain American troops in Iraq indefinitely.

The catchy little phrase "If you break it, you own it" might apply to unpurchased merchandise, but it definitely does not apply to nation-states. You don't gain title to your neighbor's house just because you blow it up. We definitely broke Iraq, but that only gives us the burden of sin. It does not entitle us to the country.

It's easy to forget that when you listen to American politicians in both parties talk about what Iraq has to do or ought to do or should do. The Iraqi government does not have to do anything we tell it, and so far it hasn't, despite promises to the contrary.

The phrase now being heard most often around Baghdad is "Iraq is finished." That's according to Pepe Escobar, a correspondent for Asia Times Online. I urgently recommend his piece "Baghdad: Up Close and Personal." He and two Iraqi journalists toured the "Red Zone," which is all of Baghdad except the heavily fortified Green Zone. Compare what he saw and heard with what you hear from the talking heads in Washington.

And, by the way, they traveled in a plain car without armored vehicles, troops, and helicopters hovering overhead, which is how American big shots travel. They got shot at and arrested but otherwise survived.

We need to get out of Iraq right now. This folly has already cost us 3,300 American lives, $500 billion in tax money, 30,000 wounded, and there is not so much as a faint glow at the end of the tunnel.

The reason I say both Democrats and Republicans intend a long-term military presence is because that's what they say if you listen closely. The so-called withdrawal deadline of the Democrats stipulates some troops left in country. To quell an insurgency, if you can do it at all, usually requires about 10 years.

You can see by the casualty figures — overwhelmingly Iraqi — that we are not doing the main fighting. We lose people daily but so far in the single digits. And we will go on losing people no matter what tactics we employ as long as we stay there while the Iraqis fight a civil war. We can, with our sick devotion to legalese, say it is not an occupation, but the Iraqis call it an occupation, and they don't like it worth a toot.

When American politicians say that if we leave, there will be chaos, it's a joke. There is chaos there now. Another joke is that we can democratize the Middle East. Still another joke is the belief that we can deal with terrorism without solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

If I thought the people in Washington were smart enough, I'd say we intended to destroy the country and leave it in the wreck it is. I don't think they're that smart, though. I think they really believed we could waltz in, topple Saddam Hussein, and waltz out. That's what happens when you let a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals from universities and think tanks set policy. Only people who have worn muddy boots and heard the sounds of gunfire should be consulted on the issues of war and peace. Such people are darned scarce in Washington these days, even at the Pentagon.

The present policy sins daily against the Iraqi people, wastes the lives of American military people, adds to the financial burden of future generations, and demonstrates to the world that we are a nation led by fools.

Charley Reese writes for King Features. He has been a journalist for 50 years.

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