Premature exit could be disaster for Iraq

August 9, 2010


President Obama claims to have kept his campaign promise to cease American combat operations (though not U.S. troop presence) in Iraq by the end of this month. But it’s not about his keeping promises about a war and an objective he never supported. It’s about whether the mission has been a success. And the answer to that question is: We don’t know yet.

It will be fall at the earliest before a minimally functioning Iraqi government is formed. If the government and the country eventually collapse into chaos and terrorists overrun Iraq, effectively nullifying American and coalition efforts there, it will matter little about the president’s campaign promise. More important is our promise to the Iraqi people who yearn to breathe free.

In a speech Aug. 2 to the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Atlanta, the president said that a “transitional force” of 50,000 troops would remain until the end of next year. Will this be enough to send Iraqis the message that they must get their act together and form a less than perfect union, but a union nevertheless? It could go either way, but if the Iraqis fail, the millstone of defeat will be around this president’s neck and not that of President George W. Bush whom Obama continues to blame for almost every problem.

President Obama has been wrong in his judgment about Iraq in the past and that should be kept in mind when judging his decision that now is the time to bring troops home. As a senator, Obama said on “Meet the Press” (Oct. 22, 2006): “Given the deteriorating situation, it is clear at this point that we cannot, through putting in more troops or maintaining the presence that we have, expect that somehow the situation is going to improve, and we have to do something significant to break the pattern that we’ve been in right now.”

President Bush did something significant. He ordered a troop surge in early 2007. In response to President Bush’s Jan. 10, 2007, speech on Iraq, Sen. Obama declared: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. ... I think he is wrong, and I think the American people believe he is wrong.”

In fact, Obama and many other congressional Democrats were similarly wrong about the war. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid famously said the war was “lost” and Sen. Joe Biden said the only solution to Iraq was to carve up the country into separate states. Now Biden credits, not President Bush, but himself and President Obama with “success.” This is political shoplifting.

The public will judge the president’s judgment, not his ability to fulfill campaign promises. I suspect most Americans don’t want to lose another war and most certainly don’t want our soldiers to have died in vain.

President Bush was clearly premature in claiming “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003, when he stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared the end of American combat operations. He corrected himself with the surge and if a completely stable Iraq has not yet been achieved, it is closer than ever. A premature pullout would undermine progress and possibly invite Iran and others to establish another terrorist base in the region. It surely would inspire legions of recruits into terrorist ranks.

There is something else. President Obama could do wonders for reducing the polarization virus in Washington by crediting President Bush for the surge and making another promise: that the United States will not allow Iraq to devolve into chaos with a new set of terrorist dictators that will equal or surpass Saddam Hussein’s brutality. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate, for Iraq and for America.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. tmseditors@tribune.com


Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

It would be a plus for taxpayers and produce fewer dead soldiers and fewer dead innocent men,women and children of Iraq.

Corporate america must understand if they want to invest abroad they do it at their risk. It is NOT the duty of the military to protect private investment abroad.

Bring the troops home! Spend the money on new industry, health insurance for all and education across the board.

After all the military advised Bush/Cheney NOT to invade Iraq!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

" It’s about whether the mission has been a success."

The "mission" has been an unmitigated disaster from the moment that the neocons at the Project for a New American Century began wetdreaming about it. It never can and never will be a success.

Orwell 7 years, 10 months ago

"President Obama could do wonders for reducing the polarization virus in Washington…"

Get real, Cal. Polarization for its own sake is Item One in the current GOP playbook. If Obama took your suggestion, the winger knee-jerks and their media mouthpieces would spin it into yet another mindless criticism.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

It all boils down to oil U.S. won’t leave Iraq’s energy reserves untended after its troops pull out By ERIC MARGOLIS

"Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama restated his vow to pull all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month, and the remaining U.S. garrison by the end of 2011.

Has America’s long goodbye to Iraq really begun?

The 50,000 U.S. troops left until 2011 will supposedly “advise and assist” and perform “anti-terrorism” missions and training.

These troops will likely be six armour-heavy combat brigades, backed by warplanes from U.S. air bases in the Gulf.

A U.S. brigade withdrawn from Iraq will go to neighbouring Kuwait. Most of the rest will transfer to Afghanistan.

No word about the 85,000 U.S.-paid mercenaries (a.k.a. “contractors”) in Iraq.

In his impressive new book, Oil, writer Tom Bower notes America’s trinity is “God, guns and gasoline.”

Iraq’s oil reserves are an estimated 112 billion barrels, the world’s second largest behind Saudi Arabia. Canada ranks third.

Iraq also has vast natural gas reserves, an increasingly important fuel and raw material. Oil-hungry India and China are eyeing Iraq.

America’s once mighty oil firms, the “seven sisters,” have been elbowed out of most of the world’s oil fields by nationalist governments.

Iraq’s ex-ruler, Saddam Hussein, kicked foreign oil firms out of Iraq, and so sealed his fate. Big Oil moved back into Iraq behind invading U.S. troops in 2003, and is taking over Iraq’s oil production and exporting.

It’s unlikely the U.S. will cut Iraq loose.

Washington seems to be following the same control model set up in the 1920s by the British Empire to secure Mesopotamia’s oil. Namely: Install a puppet ruler, create a native army to protect him, leave some British troops and strong RAF units in desert bases ready to bomb any miscreants who disturbed the Pax Brittanica — and keep cheap oil flowing."

For the remainder of the article--


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm sure he'll be utterly horrified to learn that you've branded him with such a scarlet letter.

He'll likely go out murder a few dozen Mohammedans just to get a more favorable review from you on the JW boards, Tom.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 10 months ago

Iraq was, is, and will continue to be a lost cause. When we leave, they can try and manage themselves for better or worse. Invading was a mistake; nation-building is an even bigger one, given that Iraq was never a 'nation.' The surge worked as long as we bribed people to not kill us and turn on their former 'friends.' Our soldiers are brave, proud and skilled, but being wasted in this folly. Bring 'em home. Nice try, Cal. Endless war is good for some (the military-industrial complex) but not for the rest of us.

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 10 months ago

New Headline: "Invading Iraq could be disaster for Iraq"

Newer Headline: "If Obama proposes to stay in Iraq longer, that could be a disaster for Iraq also too"

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 10 months ago

"Iraq was, is, and will continue to be a lost cause."

"not that of President George W. Bush"

Sorry Cal, the Iraq was, is, and will continue to be Bush Jr. AND Bush Sr's fault. Should have never invaded in the first place.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Never liked the idea of going in this last time, but saving Kuwait was definitely the right thing to do, we just screwed up the end game. Hussein should have been removed from the power postition we propped him up in then, and we should have stuck around to protect our friends. This last invasion wouldn't have been necessary.

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

This last invasion wasn't necessary. It was elective.

puddleglum 7 years, 10 months ago

premature exit from iraq could be disaster.....been hearing this since 2003, so when do we leave cal? oh, and btw-how much has the war cost? http://costofwar.com/ but that is just "approved funds" the real amount is over $3 trillion including $1.4 billion that Halliburton overcharged, but never payed back...why is it that tea-baggers forget about all of this spending, I mean stealing? bank bailouts? $8.5 trillion (60% of GNP) http://www.prisonplanet.com/cost-of-bailout-hits-85-trillion.html automakers GM & Chrysler? http://money.cnn.com/news/storysupplement/economy/bailouttracker/ and some people are 'appauled' at Obama's spending? okay, well whatever. tell me something, whenever we finally do leave Iraq-does anybody honestly believe that it won't be a pit of anti-U.S. sentiment? how many U.S. flags will be waving from their houses? just curious

uncleandyt 7 years, 10 months ago

Don't worry, Cal. We have invited ourselves to stay. There will be no exit.

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 10 months ago

Like it was ever about the Iraqi people! What a steaming pile of...

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

The war has lasted almost a decade now. "Premature exit" and the present war in Iraq do not belong in the same sentence.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

These wars are both Bush's wars-- always have been, always will be. Just as Vietnam was Johnson's war.

But just as Nixon made Vietnam his war as well, Obama is slowly but surely claiming co-possession of these wars with Bush.

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