The political and media establishment criticize Bush for his policies in Iraq, but they are virtually united in agreeing that
the occupation must continue.

There arguments for continuing the occupation are by now familiar: U.S. credibility will be damaged, terrorists emboldened, the region destabilized. Never mind that all these have already come to pass precisely because of the Iraq war.

One argument has gained traction among liberals and even the left: Iraq would descend into a sectarian war. It’s a perverse argument.

It is true that bloodletting in Iraq might worsen if U.S. forces withdrew, but it will absolutely get worse if the occupation continues.

The civil war has already begun thanks to U.S. policies that promoted and solidified sectarianism. It was the Pentagon’s brilliant idea to train, arm and fund ethnic militias that morphed quickly into death squads. It was the White House’s greed that turned reconstruction into a looting spree for their cronies. It is the unseen air and ground war that have turned the cradle of civilization into a killing field.

The Bush administration’s Iraq policy is driven by domestic concerns, by providing milestones that can be sold to the public as measures of success: sovereignty, elections, constitution.

The International Crisis Group a solidly establishment think tank, argues that “the constitution is likely to fuel rather than dampen the insurgency, encourage ethnic and sectarian violence, and hasten the country's violent break-up.”

A breakup will result in a regional conflict: war is like the weather – it doesn’t respect borders.

Staying in Iraq is, to employ an overused term, racist. The only Iraqis who want U.S. troops to remain are the collaborators. Sunnis, many Shiites, smaller ethnic communities, civil groups, unions, women’s associations are all demanding an immediate withdrawal.

Withdrawing would deprive the Sunni-based insurgency of a common enemy. It would dampen the hubris of Kurdish leaders and arrogance of the Shiite parties. All parties would be forced to seek compromise if they wanted to avoid a bloodbath.

It is up to them to decide, not us.