It's Not Time to Leave Iraq

Too many Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed their lives, limbs, and loved ones to just pull out because things are difficult.

The United States entered its sixth year in Iraq on March 20. We've seen majority public support swing from favoring the invasion in the beginning to now calling for withdrawal. My position has evolved in the opposite way.I opposed the invasion and have never trusted the Bush administration. Most Americans approached Iraq like spectators of a sporting event. Supporting the war was as easy as rooting for the home team while watching the game on television.The war has left a wake of death, injury, and trauma. It's an unfortunate coincidence that the five-year anniversary is in the same week as the milestone of 4,000 U.S. troop deaths. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have also died. The amount is only compounded by the grief of surviving loved ones.This article isn't about the folks who have sacrificed. I can't write about that because I haven't sacrificed one bit. Like most Americans, my life has gone on while the occupation of Iraq is only an abstract idea.A majority of Americans now want out of Iraq, but five years ago it was a different story.March 2003 was a year and a half after the devastating terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The national mood was mix of fear and patriotism. Many Americans displayed unity the easy way through consumerism. This resulted in a booming business of petty nationalist tchotchkes. Bumper stickers, car-antenna flags, T-shirts, and other clutter were pervasive.At an auto mechanics shop, I recall a photocopy enlargement of an editorial cartoon pinned on the wall. It depicted a muscular bald eagle hunched over, sharpening its talons with a heavy steel file. That image summed up the zeitgeist: America wanted revenge.There was no connection between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks. Alleged weapons of mass destruction compelled the invasion. Questioning the validity of these allegations was not easy during the collective patriotic fever-dream. Those who did were branded America-haters.It was Bush who drew the line: You're either with us or with the terrorists. His approval rating went sky-high. Now, most Americans are tired of Bush and want to bail on Iraq. The economy is the No. 1 issue these days.Last August my representative in Congress, Brian Baird, came out in support of the so-called "surge" of U.S. operations in Iraq. Rep. Baird also opposed the invasion, and I was proud of him for voting against it.I trust Baird and have seen what his leadership has done for Southwest Washington. I gave what he said some thought, and I, too, now support the surge.It's for the same reasons. Too many Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed their lives, limbs, and loved ones to just pull out because things are difficult. Baird has been to Iraq and says there's progress. Regular readers of this column will note my previous explanation of how elections work in Iraq. I want Iraq to be like Northern Ireland: a place where violence gave way to peaceful democratic participation.There is the phenomenon of the reactionary consumer. Some want to liberate a country of people and culture they have no respect for. Their self-defeating self-righteousness is apparent with paraphernalia mocking Sen. Barack Hussein Obama for his heritage. (I thought he was Irish?) Obama is ridiculed for his "Muslim" middle name and how his last name is one consonant off from Osama. These people will tout the liberation of Iraq, but at the same time taunt the majority of citizens of that nation.Each of our lives is the result of history. We've found ourselves more than five years into a complicated occupation. I have supported the "surge" in the sense of doing the right thing. However, this doesn't mean I've crossed over to the pro-war wing-nut crowd. Hardly; it's people like that who will doom things here and abroad—if they haven't already! 

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