Abandon Iraq? No!



by John Tyler Connoley


June 28, 2005



A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend and the subject of Iraq came up. She said, "I want to get one of those yellow ribbons, but I want it say, 'Support our troops. Bring them home.'" I was a little stunned at this myopic point of view coming from someone I respect and who I think of as a world citizen. Bringing our troops home might be good for the troops, but surely she realizes how bad it would be for Iraq and for the world.


Since then, I've been horrified by the number of people in the national media and in politics who say they want to bring our troops home immediately. And I'm more horrified by how few people are pointing out the ridiculousness of this position.


As anyone who knows me is aware, I was absolutely against the decision to invade Iraq. I did everything I could to stop the war -- from writing and calling my representatives to rallying in the freezing rain at Monument Circle in Indianapolis. I, and the many millions who opposed the war, failed to stop it. Maybe we could have done more -- maybe we should have done more -- but those are questions for the next time our country considers war. Where this war is concerned, it's too late to look back now.


As firm as I was in my opposition in the days before the invasion, I understood the choice was between two morally ambiguous positions: Depose the despot Saddam by force, or work to limit his power in other ways while fostering Iraqi opposition. Both sides had good reasons for their positions, and both of us claimed the moral high ground. Now, however, I see only one morally defensible choice: we must do whatever it takes to see the Iraqi people through to stable self-governance. As Colin Powel wisely put it, "You break it, you own it."


Unfortunately, the administration that started this war has made the postwar cleanup much harder than it had to be. Thanks to the administration's poor planning, understaffing, blithe attitude toward torture, and head-in-the-sand optimism, some days it looks as if Iraq will never be stable again -- as if our troops will never come home. However, that's all the more reason why those of us who were against the war need to hold the Bush Administration's feet to the fire. We who once maintained our opposition to what we claimed was a morally inferior position must now provide the moral backbone for an administration that seems to have lost its way. We who recognized how horrible war would be, and who didn't believe the administration's rosy predictions, must now offer a clear-eyed view of what needs to be done to survive the post-invasion debacle.


We need to call for more troops, not fewer, and we need to insist on proper training and equipping of those troops -- even if that means raising taxes or instituting a draft. As repugnant as it may be to pay for a war we didn't want, it should be more repugnant to stick our hands in our pockets and watch the Middle East fall into chaos because of our government's actions. As American citizens we bear corporate responsibility for the mess in Iraq, whatever side we may have been on before the war.


We who opposed the war because we claimed to care deeply for the Iraqi people (and didn't want them subjected to the horrors of war) should now insist that our troops do whatever it takes to rebuild that country and protect the Iraqi people from the insurgency -- and sometimes from our own interrogators. If we cared enough to protest on the Iraqi people's behalf before the war, we should not abandon caring simply because we want to distance ourselves from the chaos that has ensued post-invasion. Moral responsibility should have us decrying those who would abandon the Iraqi people to thugs and anarchy.


Tonight, President Bush will ask the American people to stand firm in their resolve to see the Iraqi's through to freedom, and many of us will want to reply, "it's not my mess," and wash our hands of the whole business. But what will happen if we continue to raise the drumbeat to bring the troops home?


No president -- even one as callous toward public opinion as Bush seems to be -- can wage a war with seventy percent of the population against it. He will eventually have to pull out, or Congress will force him to. Then Iraq will fall into further chaos, the Middle East will have a new Taliban headquarters, and terror will gain a deeper foothold in the world. The American soldiers will have lost their lives for nothing. The Iraqi people will have traded a dictatorship for anarchy. And we will all be guilty of terrible irresponsibility toward the Iraqi people.


We can't allow this to happen. The stakes are much too high -- even higher than they were before the invasion. As hard as it is to stomach, and whatever we may think of Bush and his decision to invade Iraq, the only moral option we have at this point is to see this war through to the very bitter end. We already have enough Iraqi and American blood on our hands; lets not compound our guilt by advocating cutting and running now.




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Copyright 2005 by John Tyler Connoley

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