OUT OF PATIENCE
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad sent a parting message to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He told the Iraqi that the American people were losing patience with the war. But then al-Maliki already knew that. If he has half the knowledge of the world that any head of state has to have he got that message from the fall election campaign in the United States. He got that message when the American people gave the opposition party control of the US Congress. At the latest he got that message when the House of Representative voted to have American troops out of Iraq by September 2008. You can be sure that Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite patrons already had that message. The one who hasn’t got the message is George W. Bush.
Our President keeps insisting that the troops will stay in Iraq “until the job is done.” Every one of the objectives we allegedly went to war to achieve in Iraq has been accomplished. Iraq is free of any trace of weapons of mass destruction. The Ba’athist regime has been toppled. Saddam Hussein has been tried and executed along with his closest aides. The Iraqi people have adopted an interim constitution. They have held elections pursuant to that constitution, brandishing their ink-stained fingers for the world to see. They have installed their own sovereign, democratically selected government. What else remains to be done before the job that we set out to do is done?
There is more, of course – it is not so simple. Our soldiers have gone from being invading liberators to being oppressive occupiers. They have passed from being primarily attacked occupying foreigners to dying as collateral damage in the intensifying, intractable civil war. The President speaks of providing security for the Iraqi government until it can provide security for itself. Are we then to take the Shiite side in the continuing civil conflict? Has it become American policy to insure that Iran’s religious allies continue to control Iraqi national policy?
The President says that we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq so that we won’t have to fight them in the United States. It is more accurate to say that Al Qaeda is fighting us in Iraq so that Al Qaeda won’t have to fight us in Waziristan. So long as 150,000 troops are tied down occupying Iraq America is prevented from deploying its combat strength to reduce Al Qaeda’s safe haven on the Afghan-Pakistan border. So long as the United States is occupied in Iraq Al Qaeda and the Taliban are freed to exert resurgent control over much of Afghanistan.
Vice President Cheney tells us that if the United States withdraws Iraq will descend into chaos; that Al Qaeda will be emboldened; and that they will find in Iraq the safe-haven they lost in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have already established safe havens in the mountains of Waziristan. Their training camps are already up and running indoctrinating recruits for their terrorist armies – recruits that they are deploying to support the Taliban in Afghanistan or to harass the American occupying army in Iraq. Our failure to reduce the Waziristan camps and to bring Bin Laden and his henchmen to the bar of justice have emboldened the enemy for more than redeploying our forces will ever do. Will chaos descend upon Iraq as we leave? Chaos has already descended on the country. Keeping United States forces in the civil war’s crossfire will only insure that chaos will persist.
As Ambassador Khalilzad returns to Washington I hope he brings a message to the President of the United States. It is a message that has been reinforced over and over in polls taken of the Iraqi people and in interviews with ordinary Iraqis both those in their own country and those who have fled as refugees from the sectarian chaos that their homeland has become. Universally they say that they were glad Saddam was deposed but they had not expected that their country would be occupied. The message that the President needs to receive is that not only are the American People out of patience so, too, are the Iraqis.
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