President Obama's Iraq troop withdrawal should finally silence the naysayers. And there have been many of them. GOP leaders pound him relentlessly for being weak, ineffectual, and indecisive on military and foreign policy aims and goals. His handling of the Iraq war supposedly was the ultimate proof of that. Liberal Democrats and progressives screamed at him for allegedly betraying his much stated pledge as a U.S. Senator and a presidential candidate to end the war, and end it quickly once in the White House. The critics did not take one glaring fact into consideration. Wars are always easy to start, but never easy to end, especially when they are inherited from another administration, an administration of the opposing party. That was the case first with Korea. President Eisenhower made the dramatic campaign pledge in 1952 to end the Korean War stalemate. He inherited the war from Democrat Harry Truman. It took more than a year after he took office, and thousands more U.S. casualties, prolonged and complex negotiations, and a determined opposition from military generals and war hawks to pulverize Korea and even China with nuclear weapons to get a final war settlement.
President Nixon had the same difficulty in ending the Vietnam War, a war he inherited from Democrat Lyndon Johnson. It took nearly six years after Nixon said he had a secret plan to end the war, and won the White House in 1968. It took six years of hard fighting, thousands more U.S. casualties and the final crushing collapse of South Vietnam's U.S. backed puppet government before the U.S. finally cashed in its chips.
President Obama faced the same dilemma as his predecessors who made promises to end their unpopular wars but given the vagaries of war, political and military opposition, and massive vested interests in perpetuating war. Extricating the country from Iraq was no simple matter. The eight year ground war with U.S. troops taking casualties, inflicting death and destruction on towns and villages, and heavy collateral damage, i.e. civilian deaths, stirred international, and regional hatred of the U.S., and reaffirmed the U.S. image as the bully boy of the world. The war was a colossal domestic and international disaster, and the mountainous lies and deception that the Bush administration used to get and keep the U.S. in Iraq will be a permanent mark of historical disgrace and shame on the Bush legacy.
The more important thing for Obama and the nation is the political consequence of the withdrawal. The Iraq war was never simply a military contest to get rid of a hated dictator, in a country that supposedly posed a massive threat to Israel and moderate Arab governments. It was a political war waged to assert American political dominance, control strategic oil resources, to bolster the military hawk credentials of the Bush administration and to boost Bush's tenuous and sagging personal image and popularity on the home front. Obama understood that as long as the bullets, American bullets, flew at Iraqi targets, the U.S. would continue to suffer the deeply flawed and failed political consequences of its overt military involvement in the country.
Obama also learned another lesson, a negative one, from Bush's Iraq folly. In announcing that the troops would be home by Christmas, he did not declare "mission accomplished" with the withdrawal. The mission accomplished boast would be tantamount to declaring the war a U.S. victory. To tout a war that should never have been fought and then fought for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong way, would be laughable and insulting, especially considering that there is no guarantee that the country will be the oasis of peace, democracy, and stability that supposedly was the goal of waging the war in the first place.
The Iraq war was an ugly and shameful page in U.S. history. Obama early on recognized that, and recognized that millions of Americans were furious and frustrated by it, and the first chance he got to fulfill his pledge to end the war would be a solid plus for his administration and the country. GOP leaders and presidential candidates will wag ineffectual fingers at him for supposedly weakening U.S. resolve in the region, and some on the other side will rail at him for not getting out of Iraq the first day he entered the White House. But all that really counts is he did what he said and finally ended the conflict. The naysayers can't take that away from him.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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