Give Iraqis the Freedom We Promised

On July 4, Americans celebrated their independence. The following day, the U.S. government took steps to further postpone Iraqi independence. If the Iraqi government submits a formal request for continued assistance, U.S. officials have offered to keep up to 10,000 troops in Iraq after the scheduled Dec. 31, withdrawal date.

This somber news is a humanitarian’s nightmare. Up until this point, our involvement in Iraq has only brought the nation’s downtrodden population decades of unjustifiable strife and suffering. It is time to accept the fact that we do not know what is best for the country and to completely and unabashedly withdraw. No troops, no drones, no private military forces, no involvement, and no reservations.

We invaded Iraq under false pretenses in 2003, and since then, the human toll of intervention has been catastrophic. According to U.S. military statistics, over 100,000 people were killed as a result of our war between 2004 and 2009; according to a more grim Lancet survey, over 650,000 people were killed by 2006. The reliability of any given body count is often subject to argument. Between many separate organizations, evaluations of the Iraq War’s death toll vary drastically, but even the lowball estimates are horrifyingly high.

Apart from a massive death toll, our invasion has created numerous humanitarian woes. Allow me to point out just two crises from a long list.

First, the U.S. presence in Iraq has emboldened barbaric, militant groups characterized by the ascension of an unprecedentedly virulent strain of fanaticism. These militias continue to terrorize Iraqi society.

Second, our intrusion has sparked what can best be described as the wide spread, grass roots, ethnic cleansing of some of Iraq’s smallest minorities (Shabaks, Mandaens, and Iraqi Christians including Assyrians and Chaldeans). A 2007 Associated Press article said, “As many as 50% of Iraq’s Christians — which once numbered between 1 million and 2 million — may already have left the country.”

The bottom line is that the U.S. has done more harm than good in Iraq. There’s a reason why Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refuses to publicly endorse a troop extension. His country’s public is well aware of the costs U.S. occupation has imparted. An illustrative poll shows that by 2007 Iraqi’s were so fed up with U.S. intrusion that 61% of them were in support of attacks on our troops.

Masquerading as a reasonable argument, the heinous assertion that “we cannot just abandon the region,” has, in recent weeks, echoed from pundit to pundit. The claim is both absurd and deadly; it stems from the same mentality that inspired us to: effectively supply materials for and endorse Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapon attacks, play a significant role in escalating the dreadful Iran-Iraq War, impose ineffective and inhumane sanctions on the country in the wake of the first Gulf War, and, of course, unilaterally lead our current war of aggression against it. 

The issue is not so much about abandoning Iraq, as it is about leaving the forlorn and battered country alone. In the wake of our indefensible invasion and our brutal war, the “cradle of civilization” has become more a raw open wound than a functional nation. We do not have the credentials to treat that wound. Our continued occupation irritates the country, and further delays what promises to be a long and painful healing process.

Wake up.

The gears of war are still turning, and we are in the process of being duped about Iraq yet again.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Michael Youhana

Writer interested in US foreign policy whose articles have been featured in various outlets including The Nation and The Jerusalem Report magazines, and, of course, on PolicyMic

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