DESPITE Saddam Hussein’s hanging and the problematic situation in Iraq, US President George W. Bush has persisted in the American occupation of Iraq and has vowed to send more troops there.

The occupation is now on its fourth year and the casualties have reached tens of thousands. But the situation in Iraq has not stabilized. It appears in fact that the presence of American troops there has fueled an insurgency that threatens to undermine the new government that has replaced Saddam’s regime.

The suspicion has been confirmed with findings that there’s no hard evidence to back up Bush’s claim that Saddam had developed weapons of mass destruction. In addition, the link between Saddam and the terrorist Al Qaeda has not been proven.

The findings should show that the basis for the war is tenuous at best.

Meanwhile, Bush has admitted that the US has not been winning the war in Iraq and that the Sunni-Shiite conflict continues to prevail—a fact that Bush should accept as an entirely internal Iraqi political problem.

Perhaps, the only justification for the war was Saddam, the ruthless dictator who brutalized his nation for 24 years, waged war against Iran and Kuwait, and massacred opponents and even his relatives. But since Saddam has been hanged, what basis is left for continued American occupation?

Worse, by insisting on sending more US troops to Iraq, Bush is confirming suspicions that the so-called war on terrorism is nothing but a convenient excuse to secure and even expand US oil interests in the Middle East.

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Retake: The best way out

By prolonging the occupation and increasing American military presence in the region, Bush is fanning Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism that look at the occupation as a blow to Arab sovereignty and a campaign against Islam.

Before the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Varsitarian came out with an editorial titled “War for Peace.” It argued that the conditions for launching a pre-emptive war had not been fully satisfied. While there might be extremist threats, they should not be a reason for launching imperialist wars. Therefore, the terrorists should clearly be identified because “war, by any other name, is still war and no other amount of justification can compensate for the gruesome and devastating effects that it brings to wherever it may occur.”

The Philippines joined the “war against terror” and the Coalition of the Willing, an alliance of some 30 small nations that supported the American adventure in Iraq. But in 2004, the Philippines suffered international humiliation when it caved in to the demand of Iraqi militants to pull out its troops in Iraq in exchange for the head of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz, who had been abducted by the militants.

The episode showed how vulnerable the Philippines is to extremist Arab reprisals. We have more than 1.5 million Filipinos in the Middle East, and they could be pawns in the geopolitics of American machination and Arab reactionism.

It is now clear that the war in Iraq has aggravated the threat of terrorism worldwide. It has become a lightning rod for fundamentalist Islamic groups to band together and spread the fires of terrorism.

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Marching forward

In the interest of international security, the US should leave Iraq. If Bush is really sincere in his fight against terrorism, then he should realize that terrorist violence could only be stemmed by peaceful and positive means. If he fails to realize that, then Bush himself would become the poster boy of world terrorism.

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