The Case for the Withdrawal from Iraq

There can no longer be any doubt: the Iraq war, immoral and unjustified, is the greatest threat to United States’ national security and the most potent danger to our principles of freedom and cultural respect. A war waged on pretexts of fraud and deception, our presence in Iraq has strengthened and emboldened terrorist organizations worldwide, resulted in the death of more than two thousand American soldiers and ten and a half times as many innocent Iraqi civilians, rotted our domestic and military institutions, and devastated a country to the brink of civil war. Do not be fooled by the hollow and self-congratulatory rhetoric of our president, this is not a war of Jeffersonian idealism, but of insidious and undeterred imperialism. Before anymore American blood, wealth, or political effort is poured into this futile and illegal war, U.S. forces must make a speedy withdrawal a top priority.

A discussion concerning our withdrawal should begin with a discussion concerning our invasion. In 2002, Colin Powell voiced to the World Economic Forum the official justification for a United States’ invasion of Iraq, claiming that we have the “sovereign right to use force to defend ourselves” against “evil regimes” possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and assisting terrorist. The collapse of this justification—when the harsh reality that Saddam Hussein neither had WMDs nor ties to al Queada emerged—is well documented and well known. However, the Bush administration quietly dropped this standard of imminent threat, asserting that the mere “intent and ability” of a country to create WMDs, not the possession of them, justified and warranted American violence. All countries have the ability to create biological weapons and the intent to do so is strictly subjective; therefore, there is practically no country that Mr. Bush, with his doctrine of preventive war, could not justify invading and demolishing. This National Security Strategy—the right to invade any country we please—cannot logically be extended to all countries unless chaos reins, and therefore undermines the most fundamental moral truism of universality. The United States has claimed its unilateral and exclusive right to invade any country at any moment. It’s hard to envision that American imperialism will not be one of the lasting legacies of the Iraq invasion.

Self-righteous patriotism is becoming increasingly transparent as our real reasons for war become increasingly evident—the rationale transcends far beyond a concern for wellbeing of the Iraqi people or for the danger of the Hussein regime. The truth: the Bush administration intended to invade Iraq well before 9-11, well before the phrase “war on terror” was even coined. The reason is simple: to establish military bases and a pro-U.S. government at the heart of the world’s oil supply. To achieve this goal, the success of the war depends not of freeing the democratic voice of the Iraqi people, but suppressing it. Our presence is stained by putrid intentions.

After previous pretexts had been debunked, Bush contrived a new rationale for our occupation (adopted November 2003). The war is justified not because Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States, Bush claimed, but is justified as an effort to bring freedom, stability and democracy to the Middle East. Conservative warmongers and idealistic liberals alike (myself included) ate the rhetoric up. Sanity, however, demands skepticism over a rationale for war used only when previous justifications have collapsed.

George Bush promised the United States, the Iraqi people, and the international community that a victory in Iraq would bring peace and democracy to a country that knows only dictatorship and jihadism, and safety worldwide. We know now that none of this is true, of course. Democracy in Iraq is nothing more than a bureaucratic morass, peace is nonexistent as long as U.S. forces occupy the country, and, as Americans, we are far less safe now than before our soldiers risked their lives and our wellbeing in this war.

To some, the reason we should stay in Iraq is an idealistic (and naive) submission to concepts of Jeffersonian democracy—that democracy and freedom are the United States’ to spread. However, the sordid deviations of the president’s rhetoric from his actions make it hard not to dismiss his talk of freedom and democracy as nothing more than self-serving and self-congratulatory babble. For Bush, talk of democracy perpetuation is the means for a much more sinister agenda, not the ends. How can America preach democracy to a region where we send shackled and hooded prisoners to be tortured? How can America preach freedom to a region we’ve been cozying up to dictators within for the past 60 years? The United States has handicapped its democracy-building efforts by coming into the war in Iraq with a history of selfish support of dictatorship, arrogant disregarding for international mentality, and cruel sponsorship of torture.

To others, the argument for a continued occupation in Iraq is that if we leave now, things will become much worse. Bush claims, “In Iraq, there is no peace without victory.” However, all evidence indicates that he has the argument backwards: it’s the hulking presence of American forces within Iraq that is feeding, rather than averting, the ravenous fires of chaos in Iraq. The quote should read: in Iraq, there is no peace until we leave. Before we suggest that chaos will ensue if we withdrawal from Iraq, we must acknowledge that there already is chaos. We must acknowledge, as former top military official Gen. Richard B. Myers affirms, that the insurgency is no less powerful now than a year ago and that rebels such as these have been known to survive undeterred for 7 to 12 years. We must acknowledge that unemployment is up 60 percent, malnutrition has increased nearly 75 percent, food and water are rare commodities, oil reservoirs are well below prewar levels, Baghdad, lacking electricity, is dark and gloomy all day long, and military incidents have increased from 150-a-week to nearly 700-a-week.

Most fundamentally, we know that if we stay the course, continued mayhem is guaranteed; however, if we withdrawal, though Iraq’s future would be uncertain, a chance for peace would be relinquished. There is much reason to have hope in that uncertain future. The Sunnis, who provided the base for Saddam’s support and currently head the insurgency, would be more likely to participate in an Iraqi government after the withdrawal of American troops, and they would be more likely to counterbalance the theocratic and paramilitary Shiite rulers now controlling Iraq’s fledgling democracy.

There is no way, under these circumstances, that a continued presence in Iraq could ever help the Iraqi people. The longer American forces remain in Iraq, the more we compound the cost of the original mistake. Our occupation has pulverized the country, galvanized terrorist to an ear shattering degree, and reduced, not fostered, chances for a better future in Iraq or America. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges remarks, it is “simply unbelievable how the war has revived the appeal of a global jihadi Islam that was in a real decline after 9-11.” It’s widely acknowledged that the way to fight terrorism is two pronged: increase effective police work and battle the reservoir of potential support. Terrorists see themselves as a vanguard of a righteous cause, by inciting their causes, we can only work to increases their furry, not decrease it. Anger over U.S. occupation is the most effective sales pitch to the al Qaeda recruiters. That’s a fact.

Domestic and military institutions too are rotting at feet of an Iraq presence. If North Korea were to invade South Korea right now (a much greater threat to our national security) we wouldn’t have the military strength to defend the South Koreans, and nuclear war would be an inevitable outcome; our army is the smallest it’s been since before WWII. If a natural disaster were to strike, we wouldn’t have the domestic strength to allay the suffering; the war is going to cost more than 600 billion dollars by the end of Bush’s second term. The dominoes aren’t falling in the Middle East, they’re falling in America. That’s a fact.

Finally, invading armies don’t have rights, they have responsibilities; indeed, the most rational argument for a continued presence in Iraq is that the U.S. Army now has a duty to promoting the wellbeing of the Iraqi people—such liability is inevitably incurred when an army illegally invades a near helpless country, decimates its cities, and kills more than 30,000 of its innocent civilians. However, a better future isn’t the end of the argument, it’s the beginning. Iraqis want electricity, they want food and running water, and they want material necessities. We should give them aid and supply them with these necessities. We should organize a national coalition, express confidence in the United Nations and our European allies, and work to stabilize the region. The U.S. should continue economic assistance, but end all military operations and withdrawal immediately. We owe the Iraqis a better future; we can’t give it to them at gunpoint.

As you reflect today on the disaster of Iraq—the death of your fellow countrymen and innocent Iraqi civilians, the billions of dollars you will someday be made to pay, and the terrorists emboldened by a desire for vengeance—consider this: nothing is worse than knowing that your mother, your father, your brother, your aunt or your uncle died in vain. The Iraqi people—though at times it’s hard to imagine—also want democracy and freedom. Let's heed their call for autonomy, for representation, and for peace; let's give a noble purpose to an ignoble war. The United States can't ship Iraqis democracy on the barrels of M-16s and AK-47s, we can give the Iraqis freedom by allowing them to be free—free from American rule.



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