National Commentary

Ending the Wars?

President Barack Obama is finally setting goals to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s about time.

Americans are coming around to the futility of all that killing and dying. The timetables are admittedly loose and flexible.

Some interests would keep us in the hostile sites forever. We still have troops in Japan and Germany – thousands of soldiers are still there, so many years after World War II ended. We also have 700 military outposts around the world, some big and some small. Why?

We have yet to hear the real reason we invaded Iraq. I have heard several reasons. Haven’t you?

Was it to avenge “Daddy” when Saddam Hussein allegedly put a contract on the first Bush President, George H.W. Bush? Or was it because Israel has targeted Iraq as its prime enemy until it moved onto Iran? Or was it because Iraq, at the time, had the second largest oil holdings? Why are we still asking why we invaded and killed at least a hundred thousand Iraqis, why American people were asked to kill and die? Is there no accountability? Even for history’s stake?

Or was Alfred Tennyson right? Ours is not to reason why, but to do and die.

To this day, the American people have been denied an honest answer about why we invaded Iraq. We continue to toss around speculative answers. Isn’t that incredible? Truth is the first casualty of war. Hussein, formidable in hiding, was hanged under our so called tutelage.

Hussein was our friend in times of recent history but the neoconservatives, always protective of Israel, marked him as the enemy. Former President George W. Bush was determined to go to war with Iraq. The United States peddled lies that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and close ties to the al-Qaida terrorist organizations. Those allegations turned out to be untrue.

Hans Blix, the former United Nations arms inspector, begged Bush to let him go back into Iraq for one more inspection. Blix knew there were no lethal weapons in Iraq. He begged Bush to let him go back into Iraq with an inspection team to prove there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Bush refused to allow further inspections. He wanted to go to war. He had said in a pre-war interview that only war Presidents are remembered in history. In his memoir, Bush now says his “only regret” is that he did not find the weapons!

Bush is now happily in retirement, and the neoconservatives are ensconced in teaching roles (God help us). Maybe someday they will tell us why they targeted Iraq.
As for pulling our troops out of Iraq, don’t hold your breath. There are all kinds of official hints that our withdrawal from Iraq may take a longer time than the end of the year deadline.

James F. Jeffrey, the U.S envoy to Iraq, told reporters recently that the U.S would consider keeping some of the 40,000 troops in Iraq to provide security. Of course, some Iraqi officials who have played ball with the U.S. occupation would like us to remain in the country. But the car bombings and explosions have not stopped.

Obama has ordered the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, the beginning of the end of the 10-year war. As for Afghanistan, we had more reason to go in (although there were neither Afghans nor Iraqis involved in 9/11).

Obama had one big chance to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan – the day after he took the oath of office. He could have saved thousands of lives and would have been called a hero by many. Instead, Obama maintained the Bush War scenario and kept the wars going.

America has to decide who we are – and why we are trying to sell democracy with guns and bombs.

The people of the Middle East and North Africa are fighting for their freedom and independence, while the dictators are using all their might to stay in power, including killing their own people.

We should try to be on the right side of these winds of change. Or, as was once said, “Someday they’ll give a war and nobody will come.”