One of the key issues in this election is the state of Iraq. Should we stay, should we go? What will we leave behind? What have we done? This country has lost its sense of responsibility. Iraq was in a better condition before we invaded than it is today. There used to be order and security, but now chaos. We broke it, we fix it.
The fall of Iraq started in 1980 with the Iran-Iraq War. Saddam Hussein feared the Islamic fundamentalist revolution happening in Iran because he thought it would undermine his totalitarian dictatorship. It was a costly and ignoble war. Hussein was assisted by the United States. The U.S. sold him weapons and tanks because the Islamic fundamentalist revolution in Iran threatened the balance of the Cold War. Iran actually became hostile to both America and the Soviet Union in 1980. If America helped Iraq beat Iran, then America would have a powerful ally in the Middle East.
But Hussein was not the buddy we had hoped. Desert Storm saved Kuwait from Hussein’s greed, but failed to remove him from power. Instead, to combat Hussein’s uncooperative, dictatorial regime, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions upon Iraq. The economic sanctions failed to remove Hussein from power – they only impoverished the Iraqi nation further.
Soon after Sept. 11, America was in Afghanistan trying to undue the damage done when America abandoned Afghanistan in 1990. Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviets in 1979 to preserve the Communist regime there. America gave covert weapons and aid to the Mujahideen, Islamic holy warriors. The war proved extremely costly for the Soviets, who left in 1989. When the Soviets left, so did all American aid. Afghanistan vanished from the public’s radar overnight. America left Afghanistan in a state of bloody civil war involving Al-Qaeda. Not until 13 years later in late 2001, did America recognize this mistake and invade Afghanistan. Decades of civil war has rendered Afghanistan as one of the poorest countries in the world. Such an environment is the kind Al-Qaeda thrives in because the message of hating America – a valid message – is easily sold. We recreated that environment in Iraq. America dropped the ball on Afghanistan in 1990, and we are dropping the ball again in Iraq.
For an array of complex and subversive reasons, America illogically connected terrorism to Iraq. It was wrong but nevertheless, in March 2003, America invaded Iraq and shattered it like a hammer hitting a glass pane. Museums, hospitals and universities were gutted dry by looters who even tore the wiring out of the walls. The Bush a Administration proceeded to horribly mismanage all aspects of occupation while feeding the American public, and themselves, little illusionary dreams of Iraq becoming a “beacon of democracy.”
After almost five years of war, many think we have had enough. Others say we ought to continue the war on terror (as if we are fighting it correctly). It is here that I believe America has lost all sense of responsibility. First of all, how can America repeat the same mistake made in 1990 by abandoning Iraq like we abandoned Afghanistan? Iraq will become a humanitarian disaster. General Petraeus warned that if we left there would be massive humanitarian atrocities. I doubt the Iraqi civilians volunteered to put their lives on the line like our troops did. The Iraqi people have already bled deeply for our mistake. Education and living standards are not high enough to transcend the hateful rivalries springing up between different ethnic groups. No genius plan will fix the problem, only hard work.
As for those who think we should stay, some of their reasons make me sick. Many want to stay out of hubris. Staying without admitting that America is responsible for the Iraqi people’s suffering is wrong. Staying to support the troops is far less important than staying to support the unheard Iraqi people. Staying to preserve “America’s image” is absurd. We can only stay for selfless reasons. We have the responsibility because America caused much of the sufferings, and yet we have the potential to help.