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U.S. right to keep Iraq transfer date despite slaying

The assassination of Abdel-Zahraa Othman, until his death the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, might prompt some to say the United States should put more forces in Iraq and plan to stay longer.

But Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt’s response was the right one: “Days like today convince us even more that the (June 30) transfer must stay on track.”

Administration ally Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona said sticking with the June 30 deadline is in everybody’s best interest. “I think we make it clear we have no designs on Iraq, no desire to stay there, by keeping our commitment to be out by June 30,” he told Fox News.

One more killing by people who believe it is in their interest to promote even more chaos in Iraq is shocking and sad. But the United States would be well advised to stay the course — assuming the course is relatively swift transfer of authority and disengagement from Iraq.

This determination should be accompanied by a decision to downplay some of the more unrealistic goals the president and others have enunciated.

Here’s what retired Gen. William E. Odom, who headed the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, had to say about the issue:

“If we think we can establish a constitutional democracy in Iraq where there is not even a sprig of constitutional tradition, we are fooling ourselves badly.”

Gen. Odom, author of the new book, “America’s Inadvertent Empire,” would be surprised if such a happy development transpired in 20 years or 50 years.

If he were still heading the NSA, Gen. Odom said, he would advise the government to send the secretary of state to tell the United Nations that the United States had made a mistake invading Iraq and to ask the Security Council to pass a resolution and take over administering the country. He doesn’t think the United Nations would do that, so the next step would be to announce that on June 30 the United States is turning over complete and genuine sovereignty to whatever Iraqi government is in place then, and begin removing U.S. troops — in an orderly fashion, so it might take a few months — that very day.

Gen. Odom, like many retired military people disillusioned with this war, could well be striking the truthful note. The occupation of Iraq is not only inspiring terrorist incidents, it is engendering negative feelings about our country all over the world. The United States might have the power to rule Iraq, but it increasingly does not have the moral authority. It is time to match a timetable for handing over power and security with orderly troop withdrawal.