BOSTON — Americans are asking, “Exactly what are we doing in Iraq and when will our troops come home?” Truth be told, no one knows, not even George W. Bush.
The conflict between the United States and the sovereign nation of Iraq has been underway for just over five years with no sign of resolution in sight. A vicious cycle of military escalation followed by withdrawal and re-escalation in face of renewed violence has left Americans in the impossible position of explaining to itself and the global community the value of our continuing involvement.
The events of September 11, 2001 served as the catalyst for the initial war on terrorism. Exploiting the fear of additional terrorist campaigns on American soil, Bush whipped Americans into a frenzy, manufacturing the fuel needed to sanction direct attacks on Iraqi soil. American and international troops were quickly mobilized. Baghdad fell several months later, followed by a complete removal of Saddam Hussein’s political power on April 10th, 2003.
Victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom was declared in a Presidential address in which George W. Bush declared, “At this moment, the regime of Saddam Hussein is being removed from power, and a long era of fear and cruelty is ending. American and coalition forces are now operating inside Baghdad – and we will not stop until Saddam’s corrupt gang is gone. The government of Iraq, and the future of your country, will soon belong to you.”
More than five years later, Americans are wondering exactly when “soon” will arrive. Why are there still in excess of 140,000 American soldiers on tour in Iraq? When can we expect a full withdrawal of American troops? The answer recently provided to House Arms Services Committee by Army General David Petraeus, is, “We just don’t know.” Little comfort for a nation that has lost almost 4,000 soldiers in a conflict that has no foreseeable end and questionable purpose.
Undoubtedly, there continues to be an impressive level of insurgency in Iraq, sectarian fighting rails on and terrorism is still a global reality, but exactly what has the United States accomplished and more importantly what do we realistically believe we can accomplish by our continuing involvement in this war? These are the questions that loom large in the minds of most Americans today.
While the decision to engage Iraq may have seemed sound in the aftermath of September 11, this short-term knee jerk reaction should have given way to more logical discourse in the many years since this fateful day. The Bush administration may have honestly believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but we now know there were not. The Bush Administration may have believed that invasion of Iraq was the means by which to protect Americans from terrorist acts, but we now know that it has not. The Bush administration may have believed that it is America’s never-ending duty to bring democracy to the world, but we now know that it is not always the desired path.
What we now know with certainty is that this war has been a disaster and there is every reason to believe that the future effects of a continuing war will be even more disastrous. Americans have paid for and will continue to pay for this ill-conceived war for generations to come with little to show for its sacrifice. Almost 4,000 American lives, countless Iraqi lives, and $87 billion dollars later this war drags on.
The situation is at a critical point. If the Bush Administration, or more likely the next administration, does not sanction a rapid departure of American troops from Iraq we will lose thousands of additional lives, spend billions of additional dollars sending more troops to Iraq, and we will certainly lose what little is left of the support we currently enjoy from the international community.
For me a greater personal risk looms; the possible loss of my brother, Marine First Class R.J. Rowland. President Bush, it’s time to bring R.J. and the rest of our troops home. Nothing less is acceptable.