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Thursday, 31 August 2006 04:10

A Lesson from Jill Carroll's Kidnappers: We Should Leave Iraq

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Jill Carroll has perhaps more firsthand knowledge of Iraqi insurgents than any Westerner alive. The Christian Science Monitor reporter was held captive in Iraq for nearly three months before being released.

Carroll's story is one of both personal anguish and triumph, but it also contains a unique insight into a dark world that most of us know little about. She recently wrote a detailed account of her ordeal, which should be read by everyone.

We've all heard Bush say that the "islamofacists" hate us and everything we stand for, and that if we leave Iraq they will follow us back and kill us all. But her chief captor, allegedly one of al-Zarqawi's top lieutenants and a major insurgent leader, told Carroll quite the opposite:

"I want to send a message to the American people. The mujahideen in Iraq, we have no problem with American people. Our problem is with Bush and his government.... [It's] no problem for Iraq, for the mujahideen government in the future, to send the oil to America and America to send to [the] Iraqi people the money or the cars or the computers or anything because the technology in America is very good.

"We maybe go to America in the future to visit America. Maybe send our sons as students in American universities. We want to build our country. We don't want the war with any country. We want to build our country like the UAE [United Arab Emirates] because we know our country is very rich. We have a lot of oil, and two rivers. So we can build our country in a short time.

"[The] American government or [President] Bush says we are terrorists in Iraq. If we finish this war, [he says] we [will] go to America to make problems in America. This is not true. We want to build our country."

Many foreigners from friendly nations will also tell you that, as much as they hate Bush, they are able to distinguish our government from our people. While we certainly don't want to take a terrorist leader's word for anything, it sounds like he is saying just that. What's more, everything he said is completely plausible and is consistent with what many of us have known for years: most Iraqis - over 91% of them - just want us to leave them alone.

We learned from 9/11 that there are in fact people who want to kill American civilians on our own soil. But the important fact is that none of them were in Iraq when we invaded, except maybe for Saddam, who of course overwhelmingly lacked the ability. Had the Iraqi people shared his aggression, he might have actually tried to develop WMDs in the last decade.

We also know that many "suiciders," as Bush calls them, are from other countries like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. These people really do hate us, and have for a while. But Iraqis only started killing Americans once we invaded their homeland. Had we invaded somewhere else instead (if anywhere at all), no Iraqis would be crossing over their own border to attack our troops. They certainly would never have come here.

Our presence in Iraq does nothing to stop anyone - Iraqi or otherwise - from coming to America to attack us. The war is not a shield, just a diversion. If Iraqis wanted to attack America directly, they would just do it - or at least try to - instead of temporarily abducting journalists and telling them they simply want control of their own country.

We can't forget that our two most pressing foreign problems right now, Iraq and Iran, are a direct result of the Bush Administration's failed policies. Iraq has become a civil war and a quagmire. Death and chaos are far more prevalent now than was the case during even Saddam's regime. Americans are killed daily. Iran, left unchecked by regional competition after the elimination of its old nemesis, has seized the opportunity to become a formidable and openly rebellious enemy.

We were promised that the invasion of Iraq was necessary to protect our homeland from attack. We were promised that we would be greeted as liberators, not occupiers. We were promised that the fighting would last only weeks, a few months at the worst. We were promised that Iraq would welcome democracy, resulting in a flood of peace and freedom throughout the entire region.

Yet now, after everything the Administration told us turned out to be wrong, we are being called "defeatists" and "appeasers" for trying to prevent the results of their failures from growing even worse. Just because the Iraqis want us to redeploy does not automatically mean it is a bad idea.

The problem is that we won't leave Iraq until the violence against us stops, but the insurgents won't stop the violence until we leave. Bush and Rumsfeld got us into this deadly paradox, and they need to get us out. Now.