President Barack Obama marked the end of combat operations in Iraq with an Oval Office address. I heard it on the radio, just absorbing the words and the tone.
The words were sober, the tone almost somber. I recently read President Nixon’s ‘Peace With Honor’ speech, marking our exit from Vietnam with nothing really accomplished of whatever the mission was.
This exit from Iraq wasn’t inevitable. A different President might have marched us deeper into the Big Muddy. A less wise President might have declared victory.
But most of us know, and history will uncover, that we were lied into invading Iraq.
The hope of a stable Iraq, run by Iraqis under rule of law, is something I have wished for from the first days. Not to vindicate the invasion– but to allow us to get out and to bring our troops home.
American soldiers will continue to risk their lives in Iraq for the indefinate future, but under a different mission.
The President acknowledged the loss of over 4,400 American troops, and other Coalition forces, and the sacrifices of the Iraqi people. But Iraqis were not a volunteer army. They did not enlist in a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. They were thrown on to the front lines– men, women and children– with the bombing of Bagdhad. By some counts, nearly 100,000 Iraqi civilians died in this war.
Every person who died in this war was irreplaceble and their loss will leave a hole in the fabric of their community. We will feel the grief, and the Iraqis no less because humanity doesn’t diminish with distance and borders.
We are still at war in Afghanistan, a place with no good choices or safe course of action. I hope President Obama will make good on his pledge to get us out, but the prospect seems dim.
The whole tone of the speech seemed constrained. President Bush invaded two countries, and the voters elected a President we hoped would end the wars. Changing course when a war machine is grinding forward requires more than good intentions. Any action the President and the US might take is full of risk.
Ultimately, we have to get out. Americans do not want another South Korea. We want to repair our own house.
We still have the power to use our Democracy to counter the power of the military-industrial complex– grown stronger in the last eight years. Our troops are sent across the world in complicated games of politics. We owe it to them to stay awake and to stay engaged.