Iraq — Time for the U.S. to Leave

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Again we’re hearing the same old babble — mostly from the right of the political spectrum (the usual source) — that if we’d just stayed in Iraq longer, and put in more troops, the country would have been stabilized and none of the current violence would be happening.  Such a notion is a complete hypothetical, and there is not one scintilla of evidence to support the assertion.  There is one fact, however, and that is that the Maliki administration is a failed government that was never able to put together an effective governing coalition that involved the Sunni and the Kurds in any meaningful way.  That is precisely the cause of the current civil war — the violence and fighting that we’re witnessing in Iraq today.

Iraq is really three countries — ethnically and religiously — gerrymandered into one by the post-World War I Red Line Agreement, a pact that involved France and Great Britain, the U.S. and Turkey.  It established the borders of present-day Iraq and declared it under a British mandate.

Iraq was a Sunni state for thirteen centuries.  Saddam was a Sunni.  His regime was a secular Ba’athist state.  But when we took down Saddam and installed a Shi’ite government we upset the whole balance in the region — to the extent there has ever been balance in the Middle East.  Now we’re seeing the result of our meddling in what was always an ethnic-sectarian conflict.

Today Iraq is coming apart amid the chaos of a crumbling government and years of bitter ethnic and sectarian strife.  Once again it’s the Sunni minority in the Central-West part of Iraq against the Shia in the South, with the Kurds in the North fighting and taking advantage of the chaos to promote their own separatist agenda and establish their own government outside the control of Baghdad.

George Bush told us that we were building up the Iraqi military so they could “stand up” so we could “stand down”.  Well, that same military that we spent hundreds of billions of dollars to train so they could “stand up”, when it came up against the invading ISIS extremists, laid down their weapons, took off their uniforms — all thirty thousand of them — and defected over to a much smaller force of just 800 Sunni militants.  So much for nation building.  And so much for proud Iraqi nationalism.

The Bush-Cheney team who declared victory in Iraq and saw the occupation as a success — predicted that we would be welcomed as liberators, and assured us that the cost of the invasion and subsequent occupation would be paid for by Iraqi oil revenues — need now to wake up, take off their neo-con blinders, turn on their television sets and see what is happening real-time and in real life in Iraq today.

And now the Bush-Cheney, Karl Rove, Wolfowitz-Paul Bremer crowd — the bunch who got us into the mess in Iraq in the first place are going onto the Sunday T.V. talk shows advising that we double-down on our earlier mistake in going into Iraq and put more troops back into the country.  Their rationale is that we need to secure Iraq to eliminate the country as a sanctuary for terrorist groups. Trying to put the lid back on the Iraq kettle is not going to make us any safer here in the U.S.

That Iraq is coming apart shouldn’t really surprise us.  In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion we destroyed (as part of our pacification program for Iraq) all the institutions — police, government and military — that go to make for a stable country and a stable society.  In spite of ten years of military assistance and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on nation building, we have not been able to re-build these institutions and stabilize the country.  You can provide money to buy weapons and train the Iraqi military, but you obviously can’t instill a sense of patriotic loyalty, buy their allegiance or make them stand up and fight for their own country in any united way.  Makes you wonder what we were doing there in the first place, in even the most minimal capacity.

George Bush and his team lied us into Iraq.  There were no “weapons of mass destruction”.  Now we (as a country) have to have the courage , and the wisdom, to recognize our mistakes in Iraq, and correct — to the extent we can — the bad consequences of our misguided actions.

We’ve spent years creating the deep hatred and enmity that Muslim people in the Middle East feel for the United States, and it’s not going to go away overnight.  For Iraq there are no quick, easy fixes for the violence that is taking over the country.  And here in the U.S., the warm fuzzy feeling that there won’t be anymore 9-11 style attacks is, I think, pure wishful thinking.  And don’t kid yourselves America, there will be another 9-11 style attack on our country.  But doubling down on our past mistakes (the 2003 invasion and occupation) — and continuing our involvement in a deteriorating situation — will not make us safer at home.  Our meddling in the Middle East has only created more enemies.  And, as should be obvious by now, our well intended but ill-conceived foreign policy — in terms of stopping the violence in Iraq — has been an abject failure.

The idea that if we eliminate Iraq as a terrorist sanctuary the U.S. will be infinitely safer is entirely false, a complete fiction that ignores the obvious fact that there are many other countries –Somalia, Yemen, Mali, and yes, even the United States — where Al Qaeda already has a foothold from which to organize its anti-American activities.  Yet conservatives in the Congress — notably John McCain and Lindsey Graham and other Republican war hawks — continue to call for a stepped-up U.S. involvement in Iraq, just as they did with Syria.

Nobody with a brain in their head should pay any attention to John McCain.  He’s a befuddled old man — living somewhere back in the late sixties with no grasp or understanding of present-day reality — who has been wrong about everything he’s said and predicted for Iraq.  And Lindsay Graham is nothing but a venal, ambitious politician — in the worst sense of what that means.

As terrible as it might sound, and as terrible as the situation is, we’re going to have to leave that region entirely — pull out of the Middle East unconditionally and leave those people to sort out their own problems.  It’s almost cliche’ to say, but we can no longer be the policeman of the world.  If we get involved again with trying to support a failed government with tactical military support — drones and strategic bombings –we’re just going to be adding fuel to an already raging fire.  This is the time for the U.S. to exit the region entirely.  Put bluntly, we have no business in Iraq, or — for that matter — Afghanistan.

Instead of trying to build up Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to bring all of our troops home and start rebuilding America.  I’m concerned about the situation in Iraq, and feel bad for the innocent civilians and the thousands of refugees caught up in what is just basically a civil war.  But frankly I’m more concerned for tens of thousands of young Americans graduating college this summer who can’t find jobs that require a college degree.  I’m concerned for all those young people who in good faith took on burdensome student loan debt in the hope that it would provide them a brighter future and now can’t even find a decent job.

I’m concerned about the veteran soldiers coming home from two terrible wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) who now can’t find meaningful employment or even the medical care and attention that is their right.  I’m concerned that the U.S. economy is so weak that it can’t provide employment for all the people in this country who want to work.  I’m concerned about the country’s burdensome debt, largely due to all our military misadventures.  I’m concerned for all the young people in this country (young and old) who go to bed hungry and who are homeless.  Finally, I’m concerned about the young kids in this country who don’t have access to a good first-rate education.  And I’m concerned about the economic inequality in America today, the rampant crony capitalism that leaves behind everyone but the wealthiest and the well connected.  And I’m concerned about the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

America can’t be the policeman for the world, and we can’t fix all the world’s problems.  It’s time to start putting America first.  Let’s bring all our troops home, close down some of the hundreds of military bases that we maintain around the world, and let’s start spending the money at home rebuilding America.

Bringing our troops home and scaling back our military doesn’t mean a complete withdrawl or disengagement from the world community of nations.  We can still engage the world (other countries) diplomatically.  We just have to get over the idea that some Cruise missiles and a few bombs are the answer to every foreign policy challenge.  In our relations with other countries, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, we need to finally recognize that there are no easy strings to pull, no pat solutions, and no more friendly puppet dictators to manipulate.

The whole Middle East is a volatile and uncertain region and this recent fighting in Iraq is just the latest outgrowth of an ethnic annd religious conflict with roots that go back fourteen centuries.  The U.S. invasion and failed occupation of Iraq has caused the deaths of more than a hundred thousand innocent Iraqi civilians, most of them women and children.  We’ve already done enough damage in that country.  Before we compound the problem, it’s time for us to leave.  U.S. efforts in Iraq right now should be focused exclusively on getting all Americans and U.S. diplomatic personnel safely out of the country before we have another hostage situation.

I believe the United States still has a bright future, but we need to re-order our priorities, get concentrated on those things that are important for America.  Getting further involved in a Sunni-Shia sectarian war in Iraq is not one of them.  We’ve sacrificed enormous blood and treasure in that country (4,400 American dead, and more than two trillion dollars) and all for a futile cause.  And now it’s time for us to leave Iraq, and the entire rest of the region.

The Money Trader

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