Former president Jimmy Carter recently issued
a gutsy call on the U.S. government to pull out of Iraq as soon as possible.
While a distinct minority in Congress has voiced this sentiment, it's refreshing
to hear an ex-president say what almost no one else in the political mainstream
dares say. Even many in the "antiwar" movement, to say nothing of
the leadership of his party, don't see Carter's call for withdrawal as a reasonable
Not only is it reasonable, it's the only sensible course of action for the
U.S. government to take. Most Americans now realize that the Iraq War is a tragic
mistake that has failed to make us any safer. It has only inflamed anti-American
sentiment in the Middle East, made us more vulnerable to terrorism, and served
to distract us from the fact that the 9/11 terrorists are still out there. Al-Qaeda's
ranks have swollen as a result of a war that has left many thousands dead. The
Abu Ghraib prison scandal was the last nail in the coffin – we are out of chances
to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
The Bush administration has found no weapons of mass destruction, and is finally
backing away from the notion that Saddam had any serious links to al-Qaeda.
Its one final rationalization of war – the liberation of the Iraqi people –
has been proven a farce, as the Iraqis now suffer under a brutal regime of martial
law backed by U.S. support and deceptively referred to as "self government."
It is time to leave.
Some "realists" point out that if the U.S. government picks up and
leaves, Iraq will fall into chaos, despotism, and civil war. Perhaps the Bush
administration should have considered this before it launched an unnecessary,
undeclared war without an exit strategy. But even if chaos results – as if it
hasn't already -- the overwhelming majority of Iraqis wants Americans out. Few
of them think of us as liberators. Attacks against Americans have escalated
to the highest levels since the invasion. Jimmy Carter speaks the plain truth
when he says that "the main thing that sustains violence there is the apparent
long term presence of U.S. troops." People worry about civil war – but
that is the de facto situation now, and it will only continue
to escalate as long as U.S. troops are present.
Many Americans don't want to confront the fact that the U.S. government can't
improve life for the average Iraqi, and that its interventions in the region
– from Reagan's support of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war, to George H.W. Bush's
war and sanctions on the Iraqi people, to Clinton's continuous bombing of Iraq
and his enforcement of his predecessor's sanctions that left hundreds of thousands
of malnourished Iraqi civilians dead, to George W. Bush's bombing and occupation
of the country – have only made life worse for Iraqis. While some hold onto
a forlorn hope that things will turn around under a continued or even increased
U.S. presence, and others pessimistically hold that the nation will fall to
pieces if the American military simply leaves, the cold hard truth is that the
U.S. government is seen as an imperial occupier and will very unlikely succeed
at promoting peace and stability there, any more so than it has over the last
It is time to leave.
It is time to leave other places as well. Some say that Yugoslavia will fall
into chaos if the U.S. government leaves. Some say that North and South Korea
will destroy each other if the U.S. government leaves. Some say that the entire
Middle East will fall like dominoes to terrorism if the U.S. government leaves.
The idea that America's job is to keep the world from descending into hell by
being a global cop is not only un-American, it is laughable, considering the
U.S. government's terrible record at peacekeeping.
The U.S. government has stuck its nose into, invaded, bombed and occupied plenty
of countries over the last fifty years, and what benefits have such interventions
provided, either to Americans in the form of safety, or to foreigners in the
form of democracy or stability? If Clinton's bombing of thousands of civilians
in Yugoslavia, for example, really improved anything, it certainly hasn't been
a lasting improvement if U.S. presence is indeed all that's keeping the volatile
region from exploding.
Sept. 11 was a reaction to U.S. foreign interventions, showing that U.S. foreign
policy has not made us safer, and instead of a measured response to capture
and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Bush administration has simply continued
with the same disastrous policy of arrogant and deadly interventions, guaranteed
to alienate the world, and all at an unspeakable expense in American blood and
treasure. Not to mention American prestige: Bush's war has transformed the most
universal international sympathy America had seen since World War II into the
most universal hatred and fear of America in our country's history.
Even if most Americans are not ready to call for an end to U.S. foreign adventurism
across the board, most have come to realize that the U.S. government has little
to show for its actions in Iraq, and that it's time to admit the whole thing
was a colossal mistake and leave. We must take Carter's advice and start bringing
the troops home. This guerilla war will last as long as the United States tries
to run the country, and it is time we cut our losses and stopped participating
in and inciting the madness. While Americans are beginning to see these simple
realities, very few political leaders are willing to admit the obvious, and
for his unusually candid words of truth, Carter deserves the applause of the
frustrated masses who do not often hear their views represented in Washington
or the mainstream media.
The Iraq war is one of the most important issues for voters to consider this
November. It is unfortunate that the Democrats nominated someone who refuses
to take an unwavering stand against Bush's catastrophic war in Iraq and demand
that the troops be brought home. At least there would be a debate between the
two major candidates on this crucial issue if they had nominated Jimmy Carter