Obama’s call for troops to leave Iraq is appropriate move
Nobody knows what will happen. Everyone hopes for the best, and everyone knows what “bad” looks like.
President Barack Obama announced on Oct. 21 that the remaining 50,000 American combat troops in Iraq will leave in December of this year, as outlined in the Status of Forces Agreement established in the last two months of the Bush administration.
Many are asking: What exactly can we expect when we leave Iraq?
“That is the $64,000 question,” said professor David Kinsella, chair of the division of political science in Portland State’s Hatfield School of Government. Kinsella specializes in foreign affairs.
“The Iraqi security forces are pretty weak. The Sunnis and Kurds are the most nervous. They might be insecure enough to attack the majority Shiites. The Sunnis have a lot of resources from the Saddam [Hussein] years. If the Sunni extremists attack, the Shiites may turn to Iran for protection,” Kinsella said.
“There are a whole host of things that could happen,” said Lieutenant Commander Chris Lepore, a Navy Intelligence officer stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, Calif. Lepore just returned from advance work for his carrier’s upcoming deployment in the Middle East. “Hopefully, we’ve provided enough training for the Iraqis to step up quickly. Expedience is essential. The two most immediate needs are governance and security. Not far behind is economic development.”
“I would hope that the training that they’ve received would help them with a ‘democratic-type’ transition,” echoed Sgt. T.J. Franklin, a Marine who teaches helicopter electronics at the New River Marine Corps Air Station in Jacksonville, N.C. Franklin was previously assigned to Anbar province in Iraq.
Obama has kept his campaign promise to all Americans to leave Iraq. Elected in 2008 partially because he was the only major presidential candidate to have opposed this war from the start, he has reduced troop levels from 147,000 at his inauguration to 50,000 now and supposedly to zero by the end of the year.
But as Kinsella points out, “We’re not sure that the 100 percent withdrawal of all forces will happen.” Iraq’s political leaders agreed in principle to keep 3,000 to 4,000 American military trainers in Iraq, but this initiative broke down over the issue of American troops retaining immunity from criminal prosecution for egregious crimes.
Obama’s announcement could be strategic brinksmanship, said Kinsella, “to say to Iraq, ‘OK, you think you don’t want us there at all? Here’s what that will look like [by December].’”
Who could blame the U.S. military for insisting on immunity after the burning and hanging of four American military contractors in Fallujah 2004 and the endless attacks on troops from improvised explosive devices, car bombs and suicide bombers?
“The administration made the right decision not sending troops in without immunity [provisions],” Lepore said.
On the other hand, who can blame the Iraqis for wanting the right to prosecute American soldiers and contractors after the horrors of the Abu Ghraib prison or after Defense Department contractors killed Iraqi civilians on several trigger-happy occasions?
It’s been a long road for all Americans concerning Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom surpassed World War II as the longest U.S. war on Aug. 19, 2006. The current set of issues over troop withdrawal feels better than what we watched on the news every night in 2003 and 2004: deaths of American soldiers, the rise of insurgency, false pretenses for invading Iraq later proved to be fabrication, and the “Mission Accomplished Banner” on a ship off San Diego on May 1, 2003.
Over 4,000 American troops died in Iraq. Four studies estimate the “excess death” count in Iraqi lives (the difference between Iraq’s pre-war mortality rate and wartime mortality rate) increased from 400,000 to one million. Two million more Iraqis are exiled outside Iraq, and five million Iraqi children are orphans. Hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. taxes has been spent in Iraq, ballooning our national debt.
We owe it to our military families and troops, ourselves as citizens and the Iraqi people to ensure all this sacrifice has not been completely wasted. Nonetheless, the president is right to complete the withdrawal of troops.
It is time to push the Iraqis to take over and hope for the best. Polls still show both a majority of Americans tired of the war and a majority of Iraqis wanting the American troops to leave.
One million American troops have served in Iraq. It’s time to bring them all home and address some of our remaining problems: jobs and the economy, the deficit, the disparity of wealth and the corruption and bailouts of the financial industry.