After nearly nine years, the death of over 115,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 4,400 U.S. troops, and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, President Barack Obama has said the last American soldier would leave Iraq by year’s end with his head held high.
The troops are proud, possibly, but was it worth it? The “Shock and Awe” war was one of America’s longest and with Vietnam, its most divisive conflict. It began with Obama’s predecessor President George W. Bush invading Iraq in 2003, on less than watertight information that Saddam Hussein was endangering the world with weapons of mass destruction.
The arms were never found and what followed were U. S. troops embroiled in a bitter insurgency which America, which thought it would be welcomed with roses and kisses for toppling Saddam, had not been prepared for. The U.S. learned early and never got over the fact that stability would not arrive on the back of an Abrams U.S. military tank.
Administration officials said they feel confident that Iraqi security forces are well-prepared to take the lead in their country. However, the U.S. withdrawal provokes a number of questions about Iraq’s future, including whether the Iraqi military and security forces are up to the job of keeping the peace, and whether Iran will seek to expand its influence in Iraqi politics.
In a way, pulling troops out by the end of this year allows both Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to claim victory. Obama kept a campaign promise to end the war, and Al-Maliki will have ended the American presence and restored Iraqi sovereignty.
The saddest aspect of the whole misguided adventure was that Iraqi civilians from the beginning were condemned to suffering and protracted agony. They were from day One victims of an astonishing clumsiness and failure of U.S. foreign policy.
Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Oct. 28)