Commonwealth Journal


October 28, 2011

Exit: Stage Left (or is it right?)

Somerset — Before President Bush left office his administration negotiated terms with the Iraqi government that called for removal of our forces from Iraq by the end of December of this year. It was always assumed that we would leave some residual forces there indefinitely for training and logistical support if needed but the terms of that agreement were never negotiated. The Obama administration continued to honor those agreements (as if there were any option) and now the time has come to make good on that promise. The hawks are squealing to the tops of their lungs that we just can't leave Iraq to fend for itself in that dangerous climate. What they really mean is that we are fearful of increasing Iranian influence because we had set Iraq up to provide a buffer between the Iranians and our allies in the Persian Gulf. Yes, it is sadly true that until Saddam Hussein decided to bite off Kuwait he was our man in Baghdad. That may have been why he did not think that we would really shock and awe him. The CIA is tricky like that.

Well, the truth of the matter is that we really don't care that much about Iraq but we do care about having access to their oil and markets for U.S. made products and services. And we care about Iran deciding to cross the Gulf and encroach on our friends in Saudi Arabia. I say friends reservedly because the Saudis are the most prolific financial supporters of terrorist networks and practice a virulent brand of Islam called Wahhabi. But they do let us put some troops there and generally like to sell us great gobs of crude oil. Personally, I think that a carrier group in the Persian Gulf would suffice to deter most intrusions. The U.S. Navy and its drones can be pretty deterring.

But, I digress. Back to Iraq. The agreement to leave some troops in Iraq lacked some final details that just became real sticking points. The most annoying one was that the Iraqi government refused to grant our forces immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts if our forces broke some Iraqi law. To be sure, many of the important people wanted us to stay and are fearful that if we leave they will not be able to run the government like their personal piggy bank and may even end up on the wrong end of whatever place has taken the place of Abu Ghraib. However, the Imam with the black turban, Muktada Al Sadr, has refused to accept any infidels on Iraqi soil so the immunity was not forthcoming. So, the Commander-in-Chief said thanks but no thanks and told our guys to come on home but sell as much of the stuff as you can to the Iraqis so we won't have to ship it.

Well, the talking heads are just in a tizzy. The hawks are just stunned that we won't leave troops there to enforce our interests in that wasteland but it remains unclear to me just how they would handle that immunity thing. Would we just offer up some guy from Cattletsburg to the Iraqi courts if they said he broke some law or would we tell them “over my dead body?” The latter being provocative there and the former being provocative here. Sounds to me like the CinC made the right call but there will be precious few on the gasbag shows that will admit it.

Personally, I think we would have been a heck of a lot better off taking Colin Powell's advice in the first place and just not going there. That has been my position from the get go and I can prove it. A financial cost of $800 billion and rising. Remember, Dick Cheney said it would run about $60 billion. Chump change. When all costs are in and medical services rendered the cost will be in the trillions. Almost 5000 of our men and women dead. Over 32,000 wounded, some of whom will require expensive medical care the rest of their lives and they deserve it.

As far as the security of the United States is concerned we are in much worse shape than we were before the war. It has encouraged recruitment to the terrorist networks that seek to harm us and the region is not nearly as secure as it was with our man in Baghdad. Yes, he was a horrible man but likely no worse that what will follow. One of those cases of “better the devil you know than the devil you don't know.”

President Obama said the troops will be home by Christmas and I say “Hooray.” Now the military colleges can go about assessing the errors of our venture into the desert. Last time it was the jungle and some lessons were learned. The most important thought was “don't go there unless there is no other way.” How many times will we learn this lesson? (Something of an oxymoron there).

This is really going to disappoint the munitions makers and the private security firms that blossomed in the privatization of the war. Look for those people to be looking for some other place to practice their arts of death.

Now, if we could just come to the same conclusion in Afghanistan.

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