Far from being “too soon,” the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq came more than eight years too late–and still, the war isn’t over. This war should never have been launched, so it can’t be ended soon enough.
The war was based on lies–remember the “weapons of mass destruction” that weren’t there, the “links to 9/11” that never happened, the “mobile weapons laboratories” that didn’t exist? Withdrawing troops now, after eight years of occupation, doesn’t mean the U.S. achieved victory. It was a defeat for the U.S. and a disaster for the people of Iraq. A terrible dictator (who had been armed, paid, and backed by the U.S., we should not forget) was indeed overthrown. But Iraqis faced years without security, basic services, electricity–let alone democracy, human rights, or independence.
The U.S. war, following more than a decade of devastating U.S.-imposed economic sanctions, ravaged the infrastructure and social fabric of Iraq, leaving behind a broken country ruled by a corrupt sectarian government. For eight years, with up to 182,600 U.S. and allied troops occupying the country at any one time, Iraq was one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and remains so today. That would still be the case if we had pulled out years ago, or if we waited another one, two, or 25 years.
Of course, it’s important that U.S. troops and Pentagon-paid contractors have been withdrawn. Indeed it’s a huge victory for the U.S. and global anti-war movements who made it imperative for President Obama to enforce the U.S.-Iraq agreement requiring just that. But the U.S. war is not over. U.S. troops have left Iraq, but thousands are streaming into Kuwait and onto Navy ships cruising just “over the horizon.” Maybe just a few hundred uniformed U.S. troops will be left in Iraq, but 15,000 or more State Department-paid mercenaries are pouring in, doing the same things–guarding the biggest-in-the-world U.S. embassy, training Iraqis to use the weapons we’re still flooding the country with, “special operations”–that continue the instability. The contractors include some of the same armed men whose Pentagon-paid violence led to such outrage in the past. Americans may have forgotten, but Iraqis certainly remember.
It’s already too late, but the whole U.S. war in Iraq, not only the presence of uniformed troops, needs to end completely. That includes ending the related wars–in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the drone wars in Yemen and Somalia and beyond, the threatened wars against Iran. Only then can we really claim we’ve “withdrawn from Iraq.”
This post originally appeared on the U.S. News and World Report’s “Debate Club.” Vote for this and other posts by clicking here.