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Book Review by Deirdre Sinnott

Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, by Anthony Arnove, The New Press, 184 pages.

May 29, 2006


Imagine sitting in your home, surrounded by family: father, mother, aunt, brothers, and sisters, when soldiers burst in. They begin kicking family members and shouting in a language you can’t understand. They shoot everyone in the house. You survive only because your bother’s body falls on you, covering you in blood. You pretend to be dead while his life streams away.


This was the horrible reality for a thirteen year old, Safa Younis Salim. She survived the recently exposed massacre carried out by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq November 19, 2005. While the U.S. military and President George Bush describe the incidents of the 19th as isolated, Iraqis tell different stories. They describe the absolute brutality of the present U.S. occupation.


It’s in this context that the book Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, by Anthony Arnove must be viewed. By putting the occupation in historical context and by exposing some of the many atrocities, Arnove has consolidated the message developed by various elements of the world-wide anti-war movement. Through a series of thoughtfully organized chapters Arnove picks apart the justification for the war as well as the excuses given for continuing the occupation.


By discussing post-withdrawal Iraq and showing that the cause of the violence is the occupation, not the racist concept of age-old tribal rivalries, Arnove puts inescapable logic ahead of the political maneuvers of the Republicans and Democrats (and the millionaires and billionaires who support them.) Politicians from both parties are seem more concerned with keeping themselves in power than the life of one Iraqi girl like Safa. As support for the war erodes in the face of continued violence and escalating military deaths more and more people will be wondering which way forward.


While the points in the book are mostly familiar to anyone who has been involved in the anti-war movement, newly disillusioned soldiers, their families, and former supporters of the invasion will find a treasure trove of well-researched, collective knowledge in Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal.


The book stumbles when Arnove chooses to lecture various currents in the anti-war movement. While criticizing some leaders for depending on the Democrats and elections to end the war, he also takes a swipe at the organizers who spoke about the movement’s ability to stop the war through pre-invasion demonstrations. Such opinions, while they may be valid, make the book an internal document meant for the “in group” of activists rather than for a larger, information-starved audience. And while calling for people to join and support of the anti-imperialist section of the movement, Arnove fails to mention the names of many anti-imperialist groups that organized demonstrations either before or during the war.


Every day that the brutal operation continues children like Safa will be threatened with deadly violence. As the occupation sucks away more lives and prevents the Iraqis an opportunity for true self-determination, we need to continue to build a broad and determined movement to stop it. Arnove’s book helps hone the arguments and regain the outrage that fuels the anti-war movement’s demand for “Troops Out Now.”


Copyright © Deirdre Sinnott, 5/29/06.

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