The military mission in Iraq is not worthy of our soldiers’ sacrifice. That became even clearer after my latest visit to Iraq, a congressional delegation trip with Reps. Ellen Tauscher of California and Jon Porter of Nevada.
While the President’s so-called “surge” has successfully controlled the violence in some parts of the country — others continue to roil. This summer (June-August) has seen more American troops killed than any summer since the war began. None of our efforts have gotten the Iraqis to reconcile politically — their differences — and a lasting peace is but a dream deferred.
The evolving Iraqi government – a Shia theocracy aligned with Iran –has cost our nation close to 4,000 troops and $400 billion to build. It is not likely to be a government to our liking or our strategic interests. After my discussions last week with both General Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, beginning an immediate redeployment of American forces is still the best option on the table.
Don’t get me wrong, our troops are doing an excellent job in Iraq. Simply viewed through the lens of completing the mission set before them, they have proven why they are the best military in the world. We can be proud of them; they are only doing what they have been asked by their superiors.
However, even if you have the fastest, most well oiled car, if you’re using the wrong map you’ll never get where you want to go. Such is the case with our actions in Iraq. The lack of planning for the post invasion occupation condemned a very tough mission to almost certain failure.
The only tangible progress in Iraq – aside from the Kurdish northern areas which were essentially autonomous during Saddam’s reign and whom refuse to fly the Iraqi flag (which tells me how committed they are to a unified Iraq) – is in areas where al Qaeda gained a foothold and tried to “Talibanize” the local population. In these regions, the Sunnis have tired of al Qaeda’s harsh religious and cultural practices and have rebelled.
For example, in Iraq everyone smokes. Because al Qaeda strictly adheres to Sharia law and does not have a good understanding of Iraqi culture, when they start cutting peoples fingers off for puffing on cigarettes, it doesn’t go over well. That is a major reason why the situation in al Anbar has improved in the past few years.
For four years we have given the Iraqis a full scholarship and they’ve produced nothing but failing grades. Our troops have given their all in Iraq. Unfortunately, those who sent them there did not reciprocate in the planning for what would happen after the invasion.