After almost nine years, the war in Iraq is finally drawing to a close. President Barack Obama announced Friday that the campaign that began in 2003 will be over by the end of the year, and the nearly 40,000 American troops deployed there will be home for the holidays.
After almost nine years, the war in Iraq is finally drawing to a close.
President Barack Obama announced Friday that the campaign that began in 2003 will be over by the end of the year, and the nearly 40,000 American troops deployed there will be home for the holidays.
Yet, despite the huge costs of the war –– both in terms of lives lost and financial tallies –– and the fact that the war is deeply unpopular among Americans, critics on Capitol Hill have been quick to voice their disapproval.
Following Obama’s announcement, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement, “I feel all we have worked for, fought for and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today’s announcement. I hope I am wrong and the president is right, but I fear this decision has set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country.”
And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CNN, “There is a renewed risk of greater violence and renewed Iran penetration in southern Iraq, and a possible return to sectarian conflict.”
Their concerns are understandable, but the simple fact of the matter is we could stay for another decade and the security issues in Iraq would remain much the same, or they may even worsen as a result of our continued presence. It’s not like Iran will suddenly be less dangerous next week, next month or even years from now.
In fact, Iran is actually a greater threat now than it was at the beginning of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, and engaging in such a protracted battle long after dictator Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime had been overthrown, and after rumors of weapons of mass destruction were discredited, has not won us many fans in the Mideast. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Not to mention the end date of the war was actually set into motion by President George W. Bush during a deal reached between Iraq and the U.S. in 2008.
Yes, Obama could have renegotiated the terms, but not without putting additional American lives at risk, and opening the door to U.S. troops being prosecuted in Iraqi courts. There was also strong opposition to U.S. troops staying beyond the agreed-upon date from Iraqis, many of whom view us as foreign occupiers.
Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told “PBS NewsHour” the withdrawal plan has the support of U.S. military commanders, and U.S. assessments have found Iraqis are ready to fully take over the responsibility for their own security.
It’s not like the U.S. is simply severing all ties and abandoning Iraq. Americans will still be there to provide training, assistance and guidance.
It is time for Iraq and its citizens to stand on their own. We have done all we can do to help. But, ultimately, whether the fledgling democracy will succeed or fail is now up to the Iraqis.
“We have made great sacrifices for the country of Iraq: $1 trillion has been spent on the war there, 4,400 American lives have been lost there and many of our brave men and women have been injured there,” Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. “They come home with the knowledge that they have deposed a dictator, and that they have given the people of Iraq an opportunity to chart their own future.”
The U.S. has paid a heavy price to give Iraq that freedom, but now it is time for us to focus more fully on the biggest challenge facing our own country: the weak economy.
“Over the past decade, we spent a trillion dollars on war, borrowed heavily from overseas and invested too little in the greatest source of our national strength — our own people,” Obama said. “Now, the nation we need to build is our own.”
I have always been proud of America’s willingness to help other countries in their times of need and the leadership we have shown as the most powerful country in the world.
But that help cannot come at the expense of our own citizens, and right now the $3.8 billion we are spending each month fighting someone else’s war is money that could be better-used getting our struggling economy back on solid ground. Otherwise, the U.S. might not be in a position to offer aid the next time someone is in need of our help.
City editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.