Reminder: The authors will be briefing this book tomorrow morning,--
January 12, from 9:30 to11:30 a.m. (also on C-Span at some point) in the
Cannon Caucus Room (third floor) of the Cannon House Office Building on
The “Go Home” Option
Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now
George McGovern and William R. Polk, Simon and Schuster, 2006, $15,
paperback, 135 pages.
Reviewed by Robert V. Keeley
Three-time ambassador Robert V. Keeley operates Five and Ten Press, a
small, independent publishing company he founded to bring out original
articles, essays and other short works of fiction and non fiction that
have been rejected or ignored by mainstream outlets.
As I write this review shortly after the midterm elections, parties on
all sides of the Iraq War are awaiting with great anticipation the
report of the Baker Hamilton “Iraq Study Group.” Whatever that effort
produces, an exit strategy is already available in this short, aptly
titled book by two well known experts on the Middle East.
After he retired from politics, Senator George McGovern resumed his
prior profession of teaching history and headed the Middle East Policy
Council in Washington for six years. William R. Polk taught Middle East
history and politics at Harvard and Chicago, published many books on the
region, and has closely studied Iraq since he first visited Baghdad in
1947. In 2005 he published Understanding Iraq, a highly readable 213
The two authors have collaborated on a book that recaps what Iraq is and
who the Iraqis are, analyzes the effects of the invasion and occupation
on Iraq and on America, and then lays out in a single chapter a 24 point
exit strategy, followed by a brief warning about the dire consequences
of our not making a reasonably rapid exit. They foresee a phased
withdrawal of all foreign military troops by June 30, 2007, including
the 25,000 mercenaries euphemistically called “Personal Security
Details” provided by 50 foreign firms. They put their plan’s cost at
about $14 billion -- a true bargain considering projections that another
two years of the occupation would cost at least $350 billion. They
insist that the plan must be implemented as a coordinated whole.
To facilitate the transition, McGovern and Polk urge the Iraqi
government to request the short-term services of an international force
to help police the country during and after our withdrawal, perhaps
remaining for as much as two years. This force should be drawn from Arab
Muslim countries, whose personnel would be much better equipped with an
understanding of the culture, religion, language and traditions of the
Iraqi populace to carry out police work.
There is not space here to describe the plan’s other 22 points in
detail, but a good many are worthy of mention. For instance, the authors
view the training of a permanent Iraqi national police force as
essential, but oppose recreation of a national army, which in the past
has been more disruptive than helpful. They also call for Washington to
release all prisoners of war and to close our detention centers as soon
as possible. To counter the impression that we plan to stay in Iraq
long-term we must cease construction of some 14 “enduring” American
military bases now under way (five of which are as large as cities). For
similar reasons, we should vacate the Green Zone by the end of 2007.
The authors also urge the U.S. to fund a project to hire and train
Iraqis to find and destroy mines, unexploded ordnance and depleted
uranium; pay reparations for loss of lives and property; and allow Iraq
to renegotiate oil contracts entered into during the occupation.
Finally, though it may be hard for us to do it, America should express
its condolences for the large number of Iraqis killed, incapacitated,
incarcerated and tortured. This cost free gesture would help greatly to
restore our reputation in Iraq, the region, and the world.
McGovern and Polk close by calling on all Americans to acknowledge the
debt we owe to the men and women who served in Iraq, and to treat them
as well as were the returning veterans from World War II: “Now is the
time for healing the wounds of war and trying to understand its lessons.
The veterans of the war in Iraq especially need and deserve a
comprehensive rehabilitation — physically, mentally, educationally and
economically, including the highly successful offerings of the World War
II G.I. Bill of Rights.”
This brief book provides a reasonable, workable and inexpensive road map
for extricating ourselves from the Iraq quagmire. It should be essential
reading not only for all decision makers and their advisers in
Washington, but all Americans.
Robert V. Keeley
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