We are two Phnom Penh U.S. expatriates who last week met with Ambassador Joseph Mussomelli
to express our concern about continuing U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
In recent weeks, the Bush Administration has curiously pointed to the U.S. foreign
policy fiascoes in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960's and 70's as examples of why
the U.S. should continue to "stay the course" in Iraq.
President Bush, who in a speech last month referred to Iraq being like Cambodia is
once again, wrong, in his thinking. He said, "the consequences of leaving without
getting the job done would be devastating", and "the enemy would follow
For Bush "the job" has changed definitions so many times that one wonders,
First, "The job" was getting rid of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
When none were found, he then said "the job" was fighting the war on terror
in Iraq. Then he said "the job" was making Iraq a "beacon of democracy"
in the Middle East. Then he said "the job" was bringing "stability"
to Iraq and now the " job" is to contain Iran.
Mr. Bush recently said that as a result of the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia,
"...in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule, in which hundreds of
thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution," Bush's
analogy is all wrong. Cambodia did not have 160,000 US troops on the ground like
the US currently has in Iraq.
The U.S. Government illegally bombed Cambodia, and according to William Shawcross
in "Sideshow", covertly directed the bombing campaign from the inner sanctums
of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, even assigning the Embassy's then Deputy Chief
of Mission to supervise the selection of bombing targets. In fact, many historians
argue that it was this covert U.S. bombing of Cambodia that helped to strengthen
the Khmer Rouge and led to the death and destruction that followed.
There are no easy answers to the quagmire of Iraq that the U.S. has caused. Yes,
it will be painful for the Iraqi people no matter when the U.S. pulls out. Certainly
there will be bloodshed. But "staying the course "or withdrawing only a
token amount of U.S. troops is not the answer either.
Continuing the present policy of "staying the course" is a recipe for disaster
and a threat to the stability and security of not only the Middle East, but of every
part of the world, including Southeast Asia.
It is time for Iraqis to have an opportunity to develop their own ideas and strategies
of dealing with the horrible legacy that the U.S. invasion and occupation have delivered
to their country.