A band of marauders asks surviving kid to clean his room, or, the problem with benchmarks in Iraq

I am all for setting a time frame (with “immediately” as my preferred deadline) for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But the debate over such a time frame seems strangely focused on blaming the Iraqis for the chaos that the U.S. war created in the first place. The bills crafted by the Democrats suggest that the criterion for troop withdrawal is that the Iraqi government (itself a sham created to inflame divisions among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds) step up, get its act together, and find some way to restore order before the U.S. leaves.
Here’s an analogous story: A band of marauders invades a home–your home, maybe–trashes and loots everything, and kills all the family members except for one, a youth left cowering in the corner. Instead of killing the youth, the invaders occupy the living room, help themselves to food and drink, and tell the youth that they will leave as soon as he gets his room cleaned up. Completely traumatized, he is unable to comply as more and more bandits come into the house to coerce him to get the house organized–with the thugs playing with weapons and resting their feet on the table, the detritus of their presence piling up on the floor.

It seems to me that the Iraqi government’s plan to take the summer off–which Democrats and Republicans alike regard as irresponsible–is, in fact a kind of resistance to having been made to clean house while the occupiers keep trashing it and killing people. It is a catch-22–take responsibility for the death and destruction we have created or suffer more of it for an indefinite period of time.

Here’s another idea for a benchmark: The U.S. should take responsibility for the death of more than 70 thousand people and the destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure. This means that our government should take the $400 billion or so earmarked for marauding over the next year or so and use it to pay reparations to the Iraqis.

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