Between Iraq and a hard place

Between Iraq and a hard place

by Matt Morain

“How high’s the water, mama? 422 feet and rising…”

To adapt a Johnny Cash song, that is one foot of water for everyAmerican dead in Iraq since the start of the Second Gulf War, backin the Spring. Of those, 283 have died since President Bushdeclared the end of major combat operations on May 1, 2003.

In the grand scope of more than 300,000 troops committed to puta quick end to the Iraqi conflict, 422 deaths is a minisculepercentage – 0.0014 percent. Try telling that to the families andfriends who won’t see their most beloved soldier again.

The reasons the Bush administration gave for plunging the UnitedStates military plus guests (Coalition of the Willing) into combatwere seemingly valid – to remove a tyrannical dictator, to stop thefuture threat of terrorism and to find and incapacitate weapons ofmass destruction. Well, one for three ain’t bad.

WMDs have eluded Bush like the fabled unicorn of legend. Themythical beast was much sought after, but could never be caught,yet legions of soldiers and untold amounts of manpower wereexpended to possess it and its wonderful powers. Sorry George: itis not meant to be.

Iraq has turned into the Vietnam of the 21st century. Americantroops are bogged in a Mesopotamian quagmire, a self-defeatingcontradiction in the Middle East. We are trying to help peoplerebuild a semi-backward state into an independently run modernizednation. Its citizens should be eager for their quality of life tobe improved, yet pockets of resistance are causing unrest, turmoil,death and destruction for both the occupiers and the “occupiees.”Hussein loyalists are among the most ardently violent rebels,striking out at the force that deposed their beloved leader.

It’s little wonder why Iraqis are upset – there have between7878 and 9708 reported civilian deaths since the war started( As the death toll climbs for civilians, sotoo, will follow casualties among Coalition troops.

The Grim Reaper has not stretched out his hand exclusively toAmerican occupiers; Italy recently lost 18 soldiers and suffered 20wounded in a suicide bombing attack in Nasiriya, and Polandsuffered its first military casualties since the aftermath of WorldWar II. Multinational Coalition forces are making good on theirpromise, and paying for it in blood.

The price of nation-building/occupation is a costly one. Toensure the stability of the still-forming provisional government,the U.S. has to stay in Iraq for security purposes. As wincinglypainful as it is to read headline after headline about this privategunned down or that major killed in a helicopter crash, it would beexponentially worse to read stories of the civilian death andbrutality that would assuredly occur if we pulled out.

The United States can’t leave Iraq without ensuring the safetyof its evolving democratic government. We can’t betray our promiseto the citizens of Iraq to protect them and provide them with abetter standard of living, free from tyranny and oppression. Wemade that promise in the First Gulf War, and broke it, leavingSaddam and company to slaughter U.S. supporting citizens en masse.Shame on you if we fool you once; shame on us if we fool youtwice.

Whether or not it was morally, economically, politically ormilitarily correct to involve ourselves in Iraq for a third time,we’re in it for good until they are capable of effectivelygoverning themselves. There’s no backing out now, for to do sowould drastically undercut America’s ability to assist in policinginternational affairs in the future. Although many would like tosee the U.S. step down from its role as worldly watchdog, it isnecessary for us to maintain the threat of intervention in order todeter dictators, terrorists and other tyrannical miscreantsinterested in profiting from oppression.

It’s an awful job, but someone has to do it.

That someone is us, and that sometime is for an underminedlength of turbulent occupation. Good luck peacekeepers, and keep asensible occupier’s head.