Leave Iraq by year's end
Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 16:06
A recent column on the website of National Public Radio said that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is reconsidering his position on the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The current agreement between the United States and Iraq calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of this year.
In a recent news conference, however, Maliki said he is willing to reconsider this position and consider the possibility of having American troops stay beyond December.
Although Maliki might be having second thoughts, we need to stick to our guns and leave at the end of the year as agreed. We have had a military presence in that country for eight years now, and it is time for the Iraqi people to stand on their own two feet.
The Iraqis are making it clear that they want us to hit the road. Last Thursday, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr led a march in Iraq of tens of thousands of followers who were demanding that the U.S. leave by the end of the year. Even so, Thar Fayli, an influential member of Maliki's party, insists that any troops that stay beyond December would merely be present as technical experts. However, maintaining troops in Iraq only leaves the door open to send in more troops or to continue to extend the presence of these forces year after year.
By no means can we afford to stay. A report by the Congressional Research Service released on March 29 found the total war funding for operations in Iraq to be $806 billion. A 2010 estimate by the Washington Post put the true cost of the Iraq war at $3 trillion, which was meant to account for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy. Even the Post thought they were low-balling it.
That is a staggering figure, in light of the massive financial needs of this country at the moment. The money spent on this war could have gone toward financing the infrastructure needs of this country, which could have possibly prevented disasters like the collapse of the Interstate 35-West Bridge in Minnesota in 2007. We could have also spent these funds on improving our health care system, or even to pay for more school teachers.
It is time to bring our military presence over there to a close, because we have already sacrificed dearly in terms of soldiers who have died in Iraq. The Post found that the total amount of fatalities from the Iraq war stands at 6,013 as of May 29. The best way to honor the sacrifice of these brave Americans is to bring our military presence in Iraq to a responsible end.
If recent events have taught us anything, it is that we need a military that is flexible and able to respond to the various international crises that arise from time to time. We need these forces to respond to situations like the one in Libya and to maintain our commitment to international organizations, like NATO. Being stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a limited military role in Libya, is starting to stretch us pretty thin; sticking to the current agreement will allow us to have a more flexible military.
The war in Iraq has been a long and costly one. It has led to the loss of many of our brothers and sisters, along with innocent civilians. After eight years in this country, it is time for us to leave, regardless of whether Maliki would like us to stay. It is in our best interest, and in theirs as well.