June 30, 2009

Handing Over Iraq

Marc Comtois

As Ralph Peters writes, "Our effort in Iraq passed a major milestone today: Our troops are leaving the cities." For whatever reason (um, dare I say victory?), interest in Iraq has waned since it collapsed as a viable anti-you-know-who talking point. But progress has been made and now we can safely return Iraq's cities to Iraqi's. Peters:

Looking back over six years of good intentions, tragic errors, generosity, arrogance, partisan vituperation, painful deaths and ultimate vindication, two things strike me: the ever-resisted lesson that human affairs are more complex than academic theories claim, and the simple truth that most human beings prefer a measure of freedom to immeasurable repression.

Now the symbolism of our troops withdrawing from Iraq's cities is richer than Washington grasps. Mesopotamia created urban culture: Ur, Babylon, Nineveh and countless lesser-known sites are where humans first worked out ways to live together in close quarters in large numbers. The coming wave of terror will strike cities that make Baghdad seem a youngster.

The "cradle of civilization" is rising from the grave again.

Yes, sectarianism, old grievances and the greed for power may deliver future crises -- even an eventual civil war. An unnatural state with grossly flawed borders, Iraq has more obstacles to overcome than any of its neighbors except Lebanon.

But our achievement remains profound: We gave one key Arab state a chance at freedom and democracy. We deposed a monstrous dictator who butchered his own people and invaded two foreign countries. And we didn't quit, despite the scorn of the global intelligentsia.

And Pete Hegseth, Iraq veteran:
The historic events of June 30, 2009 didn’t come about because politicians passed resolutions or regional allies capitulated. With the help of President who showed resolve and a General who changed strategy, this day was made possible by over 4,300 American warriors who gave their lives (and over 31,000 wounded) so that others—Iraqis they barely knew—could live free.

This enduring truth is the legacy of this day. May we take pause and remember that nothing good comes without a cost, and that at the end of the day—the only thing standing between the sectarian abyss of 2006 and the triumphant transfer of 2009—were stalwart American troops, their brave Iraqi counterparts, and an Iraqi population that rejected the violent ideology of Al Qaeda.

And it wasn't just the surge. It was the troops who tore down Saddam's statue for the world to see, the Soldiers and Marines who crushed insurgents in Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, and elsewhere, the Special Operators who hunted and killed Zarqawi, and the thousands of young men who, every day, patrolled endless miles of Iraqi roads, deserts, and cities. Every action played a role, large or small.

We may forget all this, but only at our peril.

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"Interest in Iraq has waned since it collapsed as a viable anti-you-know-who talking point."

Not so. Iraq continues to be a frequent topic in progressive media.

You're right in a sense that this is because of a victory, the election of Obama and his subsequent announcement in February that he will withdraw all troops in his first term. That was the core demand of the anti-war left. No sense selling past the close. Focus has shifted to advocating for investigations of the misuse of intelligence, the use of torture to extract "confessions" linking Hussien to al Qaeda, and to speaking out against the expanding war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Sad commentary that the most corrupt country in the world, with millions of internally displaced citizens, hundreds of thousands refugees who have yet to return home is considered "profound achievements" by some. Not to mention the collapse of the US economy and loss of more than 4,000 soldiers. Peters should be ashamed of himself.

Posted by: Russ at June 30, 2009 5:18 PM

Bravo Russ

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at June 30, 2009 5:56 PM

Since Bush/Cheney invaded iraq unemployment in Iraq is now 45%

Not good

Posted by: Larry in Cranston at June 30, 2009 7:08 PM

Congratulations, President Obama and President Bush.

Thanks and thoughts go to the brave American soldiers who made this possible.

Posted by: Monique at June 30, 2009 8:02 PM

Wow, where does one start?

I can’t wait for the investigations into the Bush administration intentionally lying about intelligence in order to justify going into Iraq for the sole purpose of having Americans killed. And all those other countries who assisted with troops and/or money or other ways that were duped by Bush and simply took his word for the intelligence – they must be extremely upset at being lied to.

And the collapse of the US economy under Bush. That should also be investigated. There’s got to be proof that he arranged that. What type of leader of the free world could allow that to happen in their country while hard working people lost their savings?

You believe this is a result of the anti-war left demand to withdraw all troops? Obama is keeping his promise? What about that 1st 100 days promise? What about keeping Gates as Sec of Defense and adding troops in Afghanistan? This is a result of the democratically elected Iraqi government working with our troops and being ready to BEGIN” taking over its defense. It’s about reality in Iraq, not political promises.

Obama promising to withdraw troops from Iraq and delivering, investigating Bush for intentionally lying to the world to justify murder, and Iraq is now the most corrupt country in the world … you are really onto something here.

Posted by: msteven at July 1, 2009 11:21 AM

"I can’t wait for the investigations into the Bush administration intentionally lying about intelligence"

I am not a fan of George Bush. In fact, the list of his policies and actions about which I am not a fan is quite lengthy and goes back to 2000 and South Carolina.

But he did not lie in this matter. Rather, the intelligence was faulty - or, perhaps, out of date would be a better word. In fact, Saddam Hussein was probably operating with the same out of date information as none of his scientists or generals wanted to tell him the truth about the state of his WMD program.

But the matter of whether Iraq possessed WMD is easily resolved.

All we need to do is round up the hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Iranians upon whom Saddam Hussein dropped WMD in the 1980's (... er, the ones who survived). I'm sure that they would be glad to testify that Iraq did not possess WMD.

Posted by: Monique at July 1, 2009 12:46 PM

Thanks Monique.

My comments about the investigation into misuse of intelligence and the economy were strictly tongue-in-cheek. Whether or not you agreed with going into Iraq, the view that Bush intentionally misled Congress and the people of this country not to mention the international community so he could go into Iraq is absurd on many levels. It would mean that he would have total control over US intelligence. It would mean that all other countries rely on US intelligence. If there were any evidence of intentional deceit on an issue of this magnitude, there would be an international outcry which there has not been. It’s plain silly to investigate and the results would be politically embarrassing, which is why Obama is against it.

Posted by: msteven at July 1, 2009 1:19 PM


I meant to say, MSteven, that the hearing on George Bush/WMD should be held immediately after the hearing on Nancy Pelosi/authorization of enhanced interrogations and the hearing on Bill Clinton/nuclear technology transfer to China.

Posted by: Monique at July 1, 2009 10:43 PM

Absurd? Only if we ignore the numerous ex-administration officials who have said this is exactly what occurred. Among the most credible is Lawrence Wilkerson, a life-long Republican and decorated vet who served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell:

WILKERSON: I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council.

DAVID BRANCACCIO: A hoax, that's quite a word.

WILKERSON: Well, let's face it. It was. It was not a hoax that the Secretary in any way was complicit in. In fact, he did his best. I watched him work to try and hone the presentation down to what was a slam dunk. Firm. Iron clad.

I recall vividly the Secretary of State walking into my office. And he said, looking out the window, just musing. He said, "I wonder what we'll do if we put half a million troops on the ground in Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and don't find a single weapon of mass destruction."

BRANCACCIO: And that's what's happened.

WILKERSON: That's what's happened.

If that's not enough for an investigation, what is?

Sure, Monique, no one questions that Saddam "did" have WMDs, during the period when the U.S. was his prime supporter. The question was did intelligence support the position that he had them in 2003 as the case for war was being made to the American people and the world.

As to international outcry? Millions turned out in the street at the time. But more to the point, the Brits are investigating their own government's involvement.

Posted by: Russ at July 3, 2009 11:54 AM

It is absurd.

Did you really say that Saddam had WMD's when the US was his prime supporter? When exactly was that? Before or after the Gulf War? And why exactly did the US turn on him? Hmmmm.

The Brits are investigating their intelligence, not whether they were lied to by the US. Maybe the entire UN community should be investigating that intelligence and their inspectors.

Let me know how those investigations work out.

Posted by: msteven at July 3, 2009 1:18 PM
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