The death toll in Iraq has now exceeded 1,000
U.S. soldiers, more than 640 of whom are combat casualties after President Bush
declared "mission accomplished" aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln
on May 1, 2003. Casualties in war are inevitable. And the American public is
willing to tolerate such casualties if our troops are defending the country
against real threats, such as al-Qaeda or the Taliban regime in Afghanistan
that supported and harbored al-Qaeda.
But Iraq was a phantom menace, so 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers is not only tragic
– it is needless. The question now is how many more U.S. servicemen and women
must die in a quixotic quest to create democracy in Mesopotamia?
According to President Bush, we are "striking the terrorists in Iraq, defeating
them there so we will not have to face them in our country." But the administration
has never been able to demonstrate an alliance between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
The alleged connection between the regime in Baghdad and the Ansar al-Islam
group supposedly affiliated with al-Qaeda seemed more like a contradiction.
Ansar al-Islam was a group of radical Islamist Iraqi Kurds seeking to establish
an independent Islamic state in northern Iraq. In contrast, Hussein sought to
exert more control over the independence-minded Iraqi Kurdish population by
"Arabacizing" predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq by transplanting loyal Sunnis
and giving them positions of power and prestige. And although there were known
contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq over a number of years, even the 9/11 Commission
that there was no evidence of collaboration. In fact, Osama bin Laden viewed
Hussein as an apostate Muslim ruler and referred to his government as an "infidel
It is past the time to recognize a simple truth before another thousand U.S.
soldiers die: Iraq is not a war of national survival that requires putting U.S.
troops in harm's way. We must acknowledge that the insurgents in Iraq, with
the exception of al-Qaeda infiltrators, are not a direct threat to the United
States: They are a threat only to U.S. troops occupying Iraq. Ironically, at
least some of these insurgents are the same people who cheered America's overthrow
of Saddam's brutal dictatorship. Now, they are fighting a foreign occupier for
control of their own country. In other words, these are not people who would
travel thousands of miles to attack the U.S. homeland.
President Bush claims that the sacrifices being made by those serving in the
U.S. military in Iraq are necessary because "we are serving a vital and historic
cause that will make our country safer. Free societies in the Middle East will
be hopeful societies which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for
However noble our intentions, imposing democracy at gunpoint amounts to more
U.S. interventionism abroad, which feeds anti-American sentiment in the Arab
region and throughout the Muslim world. Like an alcoholic in denial, we refuse
to recognize that animosity toward the United States is fueled more by what
we do, i.e., our policies in the Islamic world, than who we are – a fact confirmed
by numerous polls. And while the president believes "millions in the Middle
East plead in silence for their liberty" and that "they will embrace the most
honorable form of government ever devised by man," we should not be surprised
if Muslims interpret a U.S. military crusade to implant democracy as simply
the latest manifestation of imperialism.
Furthermore, the official goal of democratization highlights the hypocrisy
of U.S. support for authoritarian and repressive regimes in Muslim countries,
such as Egypt and Pakistan. The result is just more fuel to stoke the fire of
anti-American radicalization throughout the Islamic world.
The 1,000 Americans who have lost their lives so far in Iraq are unnecessary
deaths in an unnecessary war. But it is not too late to remember their sacrifice
with the respect and dignity they deserve. To do so requires the wisdom to end
the U.S. military occupation of Iraq and bring home the 140,000 American troops
now stationed there. With more than 70 percent of Iraqis viewing U.S. forces
as occupiers, not liberators, we have clearly overstayed our welcome. If we
insist on staying longer, we run the risk of being forced to leave at a later
date under conditions that weaken us militarily and politically. The danger
is that – as happened in Vietnam – the U.S. military will be blamed for a war
gone bad, even though it was the result of faulty decisions made by U.S. policymakers.
That would compound the tragedy.
Anonymous is a
well-known author and commentator on U.S. foreign policy in Washington, D.C.
He is not Michael
Scheuer, the author of Imperial