Former president Jimmy Carter recently issued a gutsy call on the U.S. government to pull out of Iraq as soon as possible. While a distinct minority in Congress has voiced this sentiment, it’s refreshing to hear an ex-president say what almost no one else in the political mainstream dares say. Even many in the “antiwar” movement, to say nothing of the leadership of his party, don’t see Carter’s call for withdrawal as a reasonable option.
Not only is it reasonable, it’s the only sensible course of action for the U.S. government to take. Most Americans now realize that the Iraq War is a tragic mistake that has failed to make us any safer. It has only inflamed anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, made us more vulnerable to terrorism, and served to distract us from the fact that the 9/11 terrorists are still out there. Al-Qaeda’s ranks have swollen as a result of a war that has left many thousands dead. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal was the last nail in the coffin – we are out of chances to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
The Bush administration has found no weapons of mass destruction, and is finally backing away from the notion that Saddam had any serious links to al-Qaeda. Its one final rationalization of war – the liberation of the Iraqi people – has been proven a farce, as the Iraqis now suffer under a brutal regime of martial law backed by U.S. support and deceptively referred to as “self government.”
It is time to leave.
Some “realists” point out that if the U.S. government picks up and leaves, Iraq will fall into chaos, despotism, and civil war. Perhaps the Bush administration should have considered this before it launched an unnecessary, undeclared war without an exit strategy. But even if chaos results – as if it hasn’t already — the overwhelming majority of Iraqis wants Americans out. Few of them think of us as liberators. Attacks against Americans have escalated to the highest levels since the invasion. Jimmy Carter speaks the plain truth when he says that “the main thing that sustains violence there is the apparent long term presence of U.S. troops.” People worry about civil war – but that is the de facto situation now, and it will only continue to escalate as long as U.S. troops are present.
Many Americans don’t want to confront the fact that the U.S. government can’t improve life for the average Iraqi, and that its interventions in the region – from Reagan’s support of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war, to George H.W. Bush’s war and sanctions on the Iraqi people, to Clinton’s continuous bombing of Iraq and his enforcement of his predecessor’s sanctions that left hundreds of thousands of malnourished Iraqi civilians dead, to George W. Bush’s bombing and occupation of the country – have only made life worse for Iraqis. While some hold onto a forlorn hope that things will turn around under a continued or even increased U.S. presence, and others pessimistically hold that the nation will fall to pieces if the American military simply leaves, the cold hard truth is that the U.S. government is seen as an imperial occupier and will very unlikely succeed at promoting peace and stability there, any more so than it has over the last twenty years.
It is time to leave.
It is time to leave other places as well. Some say that Yugoslavia will fall into chaos if the U.S. government leaves. Some say that North and South Korea will destroy each other if the U.S. government leaves. Some say that the entire Middle East will fall like dominoes to terrorism if the U.S. government leaves. The idea that America’s job is to keep the world from descending into hell by being a global cop is not only un-American, it is laughable, considering the U.S. government’s terrible record at peacekeeping.
The U.S. government has stuck its nose into, invaded, bombed and occupied plenty of countries over the last fifty years, and what benefits have such interventions provided, either to Americans in the form of safety, or to foreigners in the form of democracy or stability? If Clinton’s bombing of thousands of civilians in Yugoslavia, for example, really improved anything, it certainly hasn’t been a lasting improvement if U.S. presence is indeed all that’s keeping the volatile region from exploding.
Sept. 11 was a reaction to U.S. foreign interventions, showing that U.S. foreign policy has not made us safer, and instead of a measured response to capture and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Bush administration has simply continued with the same disastrous policy of arrogant and deadly interventions, guaranteed to alienate the world, and all at an unspeakable expense in American blood and treasure. Not to mention American prestige: Bush’s war has transformed the most universal international sympathy America had seen since World War II into the most universal hatred and fear of America in our country’s history.
Even if most Americans are not ready to call for an end to U.S. foreign adventurism across the board, most have come to realize that the U.S. government has little to show for its actions in Iraq, and that it’s time to admit the whole thing was a colossal mistake and leave. We must take Carter’s advice and start bringing the troops home. This guerilla war will last as long as the United States tries to run the country, and it is time we cut our losses and stopped participating in and inciting the madness. While Americans are beginning to see these simple realities, very few political leaders are willing to admit the obvious, and for his unusually candid words of truth, Carter deserves the applause of the frustrated masses who do not often hear their views represented in Washington or the mainstream media.
The Iraq war is one of the most important issues for voters to consider this November. It is unfortunate that the Democrats nominated someone who refuses to take an unwavering stand against Bush’s catastrophic war in Iraq and demand that the troops be brought home. At least there would be a debate between the two major candidates on this crucial issue if they had nominated Jimmy Carter instead.