February 17, 2007

Mixed Feelings on the Iraq Escalation

I've always voted for the Democrats, and I have no question that progressive values are a better guide for America than the "family values" preached by conservatives. Still, I have some difficulty sticking to the party line that America should rapidly withdraw from Iraq because the Iraqi people are somehow not honoring their obligation to maintain their own security. In all honesty, I suppose you could say that this is a question on which I am still undecided.

The American invasion and widespread destruction of Iraq were unjust and clearly a mistake. There were no links between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Saddam bore no demonstrable responsibility for 9/11, and Iraq had no WMDs. The American people were misled to war and will pay the price of this betrayal for decades. The eventual outcome in this region, no matter how positive it could someday be, does not change these fact. The ends do not justify the means. The neocons took us into Iraq largely because of oil and the hope of permanent military bases. They ordered the destruction of the infrastructure as a show of superior force and to secure lucrative contacts for Halliburton.

Regardless of why we went into Iraq, we are there now and have to find a workable way out. I understand why the American people want our troops to come home safely and soon. I share this sentiment. No more Americans (or Iraqis) should have to die in this unnecessary conflict. When Democrats call for a timetable, benchmarks, phased redeployment, etc., I tend to agree. Bush's plan to escalate the conflict with his "surge" represents more of the same losing strategy. I expect that it will have some short-term successes but will fail over time. Thus, I believe that much of what the Democrats are saying should be heeded.

At the same time, I am ashamed to be a citizen of a country who overthrew Saddam for no justifiable reason and now blames the Iraqis for not cleaning up our mess fast enough. How could our neocon government have been so ignorant of the tensions in Iraq which Saddam held together? Now that we have made mistake after mistake in how we approached the post-invasion period, we have the nerve to talk of the Iraqi people somehow letting us down. We created this situation, and this carries the responsibility of setting it right.

Continued occupation increases international hatred of America and the terrorist threats that go with it, but a rapid withdrawal would almost certainly open the door to ethnic cleansing and wholesale slaughter. This is no easy decision. Rather than pressuring Congress to decide one way or another, I encourage them simply to debate the issue. There are valid points on both sides, and they should be debated.

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