A somber note
With the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq reaching 3,000, more Americans have died in that bloody bad decision than the total number of people killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks (2,973 fatalities + 24 still missing and presumed dead = 2,997). And I'm not including the numbers from troops killed in Afghanistan (357 Americans) -- or the casualties suffered by other countries.
How can this be?
I don't believe that our troops' presence in Iraq has anything to do with fighting terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. But many people do believe that pulling out of Iraq = victory for terrorism. While they may think that, it's nothing more than a sound byte. I have yet to hear a good, coherent, logical explanation of that particular equation. How will terrorism and the situation over there get worse than the shambles it is right now if American troops were to come home? What is the benchmark that we must hit for things to be "good enough" to allow autonomous governance by the Iraqis? Are things starting to turn around, warranting our continued presence? I don't think so. Sure, having our men and women over there provides a bit of an infrastructure, but all in all, is the American presence a stabilizing force -- or are they more of a target? And we've got to ask ourselves -- what are we getting out of the huge price we're paying for being in Iraq? The rising body count, the massive strain on our economy, the divisiveness it has fostered in American society, the toll it's taking on our foreign relations and international good will...?
Saddam Hussein is dead and buried. His regime has been dismantled, and the Iraq he ruled, destroyed.
If the first justification for our invasion (WMDs) has been exposed as a sham and the secondary excuse (to topple a dictator responsible for brutal mass murders) is no longer valid, then why are we there? Because we went in in the first place? That we can't leave the country more unstable than it was before we went in (which would be tantamount to admitting the invasion was a big mistake)? Because Americans solve problems (and are good guys), rather than create them? What, exactly, would be a "victory" in Iraq? Heck, what, at this point, would even constitute a good outcome?
By any calculus -- moral, economic, political -- this makes no sense to me.
Let's hope reason, compassion and visionary thinking -- rather than more partisan rhethoric -- are injected into the equation in 2007. Let's have the politicians answer for their bad decisions, not heap that burden on the backs of the soldiers. Good leadership also means recognizing when a change in strategy is necessary. The greatest vote of support we can give our troops is to devise a plan to bring them home.
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