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« Reason

Out of Iraq

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)


Published April 10, 2008

It's astonishing to still hear people posit that there's some victory scenario on the other side of additional time spent in Iraq. The only legacy for the American misadventures in Iraq, sadly, is a dishonestly brokered and manipulated invasion of a sovereign country. There is no victory anymore, if there ever was. Does victory include the death of tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Does victory include the complete dismantling of basic security and infrastructure elements in the country? It seems every discussion of the Iraq debacle must contain an acknowledgement that of course the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein, because this is the principle accomplishment on which the operation rests. Fine; acknowledged. But that doesn't balance the damage that has been done. Iraq is not necessarily a better place now than before the invasion, except for certain freedoms. After all, what good is freedom without the security to enjoy it?

However, it's not just the reckless Republican administration and compliant 107th Congress that deserve scorn. The Democrats who rode into the 110th Congress on a mandate to get us out of Iraq have proven ineffective at best. Matt Taibbi wrote an excellent article in February's Rolling Stone highlighting the sorry story:

Solidifying his reputation as one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history, Reid explained his decision to refocus his party's energies on topics other than ending the war by saying he just couldn't fit Iraq into his busy schedule. "We have the presidential election," Reid said recently. "Our time is really squeezed."

There was much public shedding of tears among the Democratic leadership, as Reid, Pelosi and other congressional heavyweights expressed deep sadness that their valiant charge up the hill of change had been thwarted by circumstances beyond their control — that, as much as they would love to continue trying to end the catastrophic Iraq deal, they would now have to wait until, oh, 2009 to try again. "We'll have a new president," said Pelosi. "And I do think at that time we'll take a fresh look at it."

Part of the reason the current administration, its allies in Congress, and its military appointees are so reluctant to entertain any withdrawal scenarios is because to do so would be to admit there are things they can't control but for which they are responsible. Pandora's Box has been opened, and the monsters cannot be stuffed back inside, try though they might. They can keep kicking the can down the field, but the problem is too intractable to keep promising that six more months will bring some miracle solution. The problem is too important to the futures of Iraq and the United States to keep worrying about political reputations. So, let's get past the blame and talk about what to do now.

The most compelling plan I've seen is titled, simply, A Responsible Plan To End The War In Iraq. Endorsed by Congressional candidates and military leaders, it faces the hard problems squarely and discusses the political and diplomatic choices necessary to move forward and get out.

The United States invaded Iraq in March 2003. Since then, nearly 4,000 American troops have lost their lives and nearly thirty thousand more have suffered serious injuries, while as many as a million Iraqis may be dead. The financial costs of the war to the U.S. economy will ultimately exceed $3 trillion.

More than a year ago, the American public demanded a new direction in Iraq by electing a new Congress, and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (the Baker-Hamilton Commission) presented a set of recommendations for just such a new direction5. President Bush rejected the majority of those recommendations and proceeded—largely unchecked by Congress—on a course explicitly contrary to them.

Since that time, the current administration and its congressional allies have continued to use shifting rationales for extending our military involvement in Iraq with no end in sight. The American public has been presented with a set of false choices: a semi-permanent military occupation of Iraq versus a precipitous and destabilizing withdrawal. There is a deepening public desire for a new path forward and a cohesive military, diplomatic, and economic strategy that will end the war in Iraq while protecting American interests.

There are two strategic questions raised by our current dilemma:

  1. How do we bring American military engagement in Iraq to a responsible end?

    There is no military solution to the problems faced in Iraq: the real progress that can be made requires diplomatic, political, and economic means. We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces and end our military presence in Iraq.

  2. How do we prevent a repeat of the mistakes we’ve made?

    The breakdown of checks and balances in our government led to bad decision-making which damaged America’s national security. Ending this war and preventing future situations like it requires that we restore these Constitutional checks and balances and fix the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us.

Discussions of Iraq in the media have focused almost entirely on military operations and issues, but any real solution will require us to look at a broader set of problems. Beyond redeploying our troops, we must place equal importance on applying the full arsenal of non-military tools at our disposal. The American public must also re-engage in the discussions and decision-making about how to proceed.

I urge you to review this plan, to reject submitting to name-calling by those for whom too much blood is never enough, and to consider a time to return to committing America's resources to America's needs at home. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a compelling column two weeks ago about the costs of the war: $5,000 per second.

We’ve cut our casualty rates to the unacceptable levels that plagued us back in 2005, and we still don’t have any exit plan for years to come — all for a bill that is accumulating at the rate of almost $5,000 every second!

More important, while casualties in Baghdad are down, we’re beginning to take losses in Florida and California. The United States seems to have slipped into recession; Americans are losing their homes, jobs and health insurance; banks are struggling — and the Iraq war appears to have aggravated all these domestic woes.

A Congressional study by the Joint Economic Committee found that the sums spent on the Iraq war each day could enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start or give Pell Grants to 153,000 students to attend college. Or if we’re sure we want to invest in security, then a day’s Iraq spending would finance another 11,000 border patrol agents or 9,000 police officers.

Imagine the possibilities. We could hire more police and border patrol agents, expand Head Start and rehabilitate America’s image in the world by underwriting a global drive to slash maternal mortality, eradicate malaria and deworm every child in Africa.

All that would consume less than one month’s spending on the Iraq war.

Moreover, the Bush administration has financed this war in a way that undermines our national security — by borrowing. Forty percent of the increased debt will be held by China and other foreign countries.

Kristof ends his column, "I don't feel that I'm getting my money's worth." Do you?


Comments

1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Great article! Let's not forget Retired General W. Odom's testimony which is not highly published:

http://www.alternet.org/audits/81626/

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2apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

What amazes me is that there are still people, staunch Republicans without the ability to think, who still believe what Bush and the Neocons tell them about Iraq. We are bankrupting this country for a war that is unwinnable and was unnecessary.

We often forget about the 30,000 wounded Iraq veterans many of whom are severely injured and will cost us billions to take care of the rest of their lives.

Without doubt, Bush is the worst president of all time. This is the result of electing a president who is basically a moron and puppet of the right.

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3valleyred(1098 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

You are a liberal Tyler, give it up. Your other blog, the Renaissance one bears the Obama logo. You want out of Iraq because you are like so many people and actually buy into the Democratic belief that the $500 billion spent in Iraq would've been spent on Health Care or other social issues.

Well guess what, you are wrong... We are fighting and winning in Iraq. And let me leave you with this: Would you feel safer knowing WE DO or DO NOT have a major military presence in Iraq/Kuwait/Israel?

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4apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

First of all we don't have a military presence in Israel. Secondly, we aren't winning in Iraq even if Rush and Bush tell you so. Violence might be down but even that is ONLY because Al Sadr has asked his militia to cease fire not because of any surge. Then if you think the current government in Iraq is pro America why was Iran's president welcomed with open arms and Americans need bullet proof vests? If you really understood the middle east you'd know that Iran is made up of mostly shiites who are also the majority of the American backed Iraqi government. The Sunnis's are Saddam's people and only make up 20% of the populace of Iraq and yet are very connected to Saudi Arabia which is also Sunni. But why would you understand such intricacies considering even your current candidate, McBush, doesn't know about those things. In fact, he even said he doesn't know economics either so how will he be a good president? The funny thing is you don't know much of anything and believe whatever your fearless leader Bush tells you. You know, the man who couldn't even stay in the national guard after using it to dodge Vietnam.

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5apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

And yes, the 500 billion would have been better spent here in America. The roads and bridges are failing, the education system is failing, but at least Exxon Mobil and Haliburton are prospering.

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6Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

valleyred - from the tone of ur message one could reasonably deduce that you are emailing from your government assigned Humvee somewhere in Iraq. Watch out for those roadside IEDs!

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7tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Sticks and stones, valleyred... Liberal may be a dirty word in your world, but it's not it mine.

I'd like to hear your definition of winning in Iraq, because what I hear keeps changing every six months in order to keep our troops there indefinitely. No, I do not feel safer with our troops in the region. And yes, I'm tired of the disproportionate percentage of our federal budget devoted to military spending. Its wasteful and counterproductive. There are many more fruitful ways to spend or not to spend those dollars, not to mention the lives that would be saved by discontinuing this unjust war.

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8Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Over 60% of the US government expenditures currrently is on entitlement spending. 20% is on Defense spending, a portion of that 20% funds the miltary activity in Iraq. As more Americans become government dependent, likely the government expenditures on entitlements will reach 70% within 10 years.

As the Iraqi military continues to grow and command more Iraqi provinces, our expenditures in Iraq will continue to decrease. A successful and stable Iraq is in the interests of US national security. Osama Bin Laden repeatedly has refered to his frustration with his lack of progress against the GWOT in Iraq. Prior to the Allied invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein created a Human Rights disaster on his dominion and that of his neighbors, the likes of which would fill an encyclopedia.

George Washington said that, "We cannot expect to be transported from tyranny to liberty in a featherbed." After the British surrender, The United States required years before creating a Constitution. The regions of the USA that opposed each other from its birth eventually fought a Civil War, resulting in over 600,000 American dead. The number of American dead in Iraq, although tragic, would equal the number of fallen in the opening minutes of a number of Civil War(or other) battles. I am glad that thus far, the Iraqi's are off to a better start than we were in forming a nation.

We are, for the current time, the World's superpower. I believe that we will cease to be, not because we fought in Iraq, but because we bankrupted our government on entitlement spending. However, we still have troops in Germany long after WW2, troops in Korea long after the Korean War, because we, as the World's reigning superpower, have no choice but to defend freedom. If we create a vacuum, others with nefarious intentions will surely fill it.

It is cheaper to continue to maintain a presense in Iraq, than to attempt to retake and repair it after a premature withdrawl. While there, we will continue to kill transplanted terrorists that otherwise could have been assigned to kill in the USA.

I have my differences with both major parties, but I do believe that it is poor form to declare that the "War is lost" while it is being waged. It does remind me of how hisory repeats itself. Remember that it was part of the 1864 DNC platform for the Union to withdraw from the Civil War and kept slavery intact.

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9rmzrez(121 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like you just drink the Bush koolaid HATE HATE AND MORE HATE BOMB BOMB BOMB

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10apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Nonsocialist is also wrong about the 20 percent of the budget that goes to defense also funding Iraq. Iraq is being funded outside the defense budget with specific funding bills. I remember when we first went into Iraq the Bushies said that it'd take a short period to win and cost less than 50 million funded by Iraqi oil money. Then Mission Accomplished. Then how many elections that would settle the fighting. Now 5+ years later the story is the surge is causing less fighting when the reality is Al Sadr telling his militias to cease fire is the real reason. Watching 60 minutes yesterday, the entire government is corrupt with our money funding not only the ministers corruption but also getting to people who are killing our soldiers. Seems to me that the only way to get the Iraqi government to be serious about building a legitimate Democracy is to withdraw and cut off the corruption money. Yet, the truly stupid, like nonsocialist, continue to buy the same crap that Bush and the Neocons have been selling for over 5 years. Now I can understand believing the original lie but to continue to believe lie after lie after lie shows the true believers to be purely stupid. Unable to think rationally and for themselves. Blaming liberals and social programs for all that ails America. It amazes me how obtuse people can be even after all the evidence tells them the opposite of what the Bushies say.

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11tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I encourage all readers to debate in a civil fashion. There's no need for name calling, as there are plenty of facts to draw on without resorting to personal attacks. Thank you for your comments.

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12tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Nonsocialist, I'm glad you brought up the American Revolution. It's an interesting metaphor for what's going on in Iraq right now. The world's most powerful empire gets unexpectedly mired down in a conflict fighting a formless foe which has the growing support of the native population against that occupying empire.

After Valley Forge, Washington realized he had been trying to attack too hard, all he needed to do was wait it out, and that's how he won. Just continue to poke, prod, and provoke from the shadows, while the empire spent itself into misery and lost interest and momentum. This is essentially where we find ourselves in Iraq, and students of history would do well do acknowledge the writing on the wall and call it over.

To the budget figures, the entitlement spending to which you allude also includes the national debt expenditures. We can debate mandatory spending figures. However, I'm talking about the discretionary budget, where more than half of the $463 billion budget goes to the Pentagon, not including, as apollo points out, additional funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention other homeland security programs.

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13Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I was wrong about the Iraq funding being included in the annual DOD budget. The war is funded through supplemental appropriations. I would add that the cost of the war is declining, is expected to decline, and is a fraction of entitlement spending. Mandatory spending, which is already unaffordable, will surely continue to rise, and is the new "serpent under the table."

Lincoln said during the Civil War that the battle of today is not altogether for today. A stable and sovereign Iraq will benefit the USA and the peace-loving world for generations.

Regarding the Revolution, the British weren't training the US military so that they could stabilize the colonies and then bolt. They were taxing us to pay for the Indian wars, rather than paying for infrastucture and security. Also in contrast, my understanding is that Iraqis realize that the war is unpopular in the USA, and many fear the carnage that would surely follow a premature departure.

I believe that the Revolutionary soldiers who starved and ate tree bark and even their shoes in Morristown and Valley Forge weren't fighting for government dependence, but rather against it.

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14apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Sure a stable Iraq would benefit the US and the world. So would a stable North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Russia, China, and some African countries. Remember the Russians were in Afghanistan for 10 years and couldn't win. (Thanks in large part to the U.S. supplying arms to the Taliban)

The revolutionary soldiers did that NOT to fight against government dependence but fought against British government dependence and for American government dependence.

The same things that are being said about Iraq were also said about Vietnam and Vietnam didn't domino into communism throughout the far east.

How long do we stay in Iraq? Another year? 5? 10? 100? Do we spend 1 trillion? 5 trillion? 10? 100?

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15valleyred(1098 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Want to debate, I got a website to do it.
MVRed.com... Debate conservatives on our policies; which are Youngstown's only Hope!

We are winning in Iraq, violence down, gov't growing, schools being built. You just watch the nightly news here in the US for your news, read some of the web and listen to the radio for the real news you won't see on the Clinton News Network.

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