Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
December 23, 2005
The withdrawal of U.S. troops is finally beginning, and I cheer every time a single U.S. soldier returns unharmed.
But let’s not fool ourselves here.
George Bush has no intention of bringing all or even most of the troops home anytime soon—or even anytime before he leaves office.
And this withdrawal is less than meets the eye.
Bush has had a baseline of 138,000 troops in Iraq for the last year or so, with the number rising to about 165,000 in the lead-up to the elections.
The Pentagon always planned on drawing back down to 138,000, and now Rumsfeld is going to go 5,000 lower than that.
That will still leave 133,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
I know the Bush Administration wants us all to have amnesia, but the Pentagon was saying the number of U.S. troops in Iraq would be 30,000 by December—December of 2003.
Slight miscalculation there.
Now Bush talks of “complete victory.” And in his ever simplistic formulations, he poses another either/or. It’s no longer, “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.”
Now it’s, “You’re either for victory, or you’re for defeat.”
Well, victory is not around the corner, and the insurgency—don’t tell Cheney—is not in its last throes.
We’ve lost 2,155 soldiers so far in Iraq. By next Christmas, that number may be close to 3,000.
Rumsfeld is in Iraq right now.
He should stay there.
Bring everybody else home.