WHAT LEAVING MIGHT LOOK LIKE. Lefty stalwart In These Times, which has become increasingly provocative and readable under its dynamic new leadership, is generating controversy in anti-war circles with Chris Toensing's new piece, "Why Leaving Iraq Won't Be Easy." It's well worth reading, and the kind of clear-eyed assessment of the complex facts on the ground one might more readily expect to find in The New Republic, if TNR had a less complicated relationship to the Iraq War, than in a publication I long thought of as being not so far to the right of Z magazine. Wesley Clark has previously laid out similar concerns about the sorts of sectarian strife and bloodshed that would follow a U.S. withdrawal, and it's good to see people far to his left willing to take an unbiased look at what the consequences of leaving Iraq would likely be for Iraqis. Most importantly, Toensing points out that the elected, religious, and political leadership in Iraq is not yet asking for the U.S. to go, and that we may potentially face a "through-the-looking-glass scenario, with Washington bullying the Iraqi government into asking U.S. forces to leave."

Those closer to the Noam Chomsky/Cindy Sheehan/Howard Zinn axis on the anti-war left seem particularly disappointed that the piece doesn't hew to their well-worn rhetoric. Writes David Swanson at AfterDowningStreet.org:

As scores of Iraqis die every day, it does not matter if you call it civil war, sectarian strife, or democracy; it is�by design�an American killing field, a smokescreen for stealing oil, and for establishing permanent military bases to defend American business interests.

Toensing does not argue that the U.S. ought to remain in Iraq; he argues that those who support a withdrawal of forces need to know what it is they are asking for, and have a clear sense of the different unsatisfactory options that the U.S. has available to it. At this late date, peace and prosperity for Iraq do not seem to be on the table, no matter what the U.S. does, and the remaining goal would seem to be minimizing the extent of the harm to U.S. interests and soldiers on the way out.

UPDATE: Some readers seem to be taking my mentioning of Sheehan, Chomsky, and Zinn as some kind of gratuitous swipe against the site AfterDowningStreet.org. I just want to be clear that the only reason I dragged their names into this is that there are huge pictures of them on the site, along with clickable links for PSAs they have recorded. Notes the site, "These Public Service Announcements are available for download and play on the radio. AfterDowningStreet.org would like to thank The People Speak radio, Pacifica radio, Ed Asner, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Tim Robbins, Cindy Sheehan, and Ann Wright." Otherwise, I'd never have mentioned them.

--Garance Franke-Ruta