WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – The last 500 American soldiers rolled out of Iraq into Kuwait Dec. 18 in a heavily armored, secret, pre-dawn convoy, bringing a quiet end to the bitter war that divided this country as it raged on for nearly nine years.
The five-hour drive in armored personnel carriers by the 3rd brigade of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division took place under cover of darkness to prevent any final attacks on the withdrawing troops, according to published reports.
The war cost the lives of 4,474 U.S. military personnel and–according to various estimates– from 100,000 to 500,000 Iraqi lives, as well as at least $800 billion (officially) from the U.S. Treasury, and more than 32,000 critically injured U.S. forces.
President Barack Obama marked the U.S. withdrawal Dec. 14, when he welcomed a contingent of soldiers back on American soil. “Fort Bragg, we’re here to mark a historic moment in the life of our country and our military. For nearly nine years, our nation has been at war in Iraq. And you, the incredible men and women of Fort Bragg, have been there every step of the way, serving with honor, sacrificing greatly, from the first waves of the invasion to some of the last troops to come home.
“So as your commander-in-chief and on behalf of a grateful nation, I’m proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree: Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home.”
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Mr. Obama pledged to bring a “responsible” end to the war which was begun by his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. In a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Dec. 12, Mr. Obama insisted he had fulfilled his pledge.
“We have got an enormous investment of blood and treasure in Iraq,” Mr. Obama said, “and we want to make sure that even as we bring the last troops out, it is well understood both in Iraq and here in the United States that our commitment to Iraq’s success is going to be enduring.”
U.S. forces had to be withdrawn on this schedule, according to an agreement reached in 2008, because the Iraqi government would no longer grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. The U.S. adamantly rejected that condition.
Contrary to public opinion U.S. officials also insist the “gains” realized make the sacrifices “worth it.” Polls show more than 70 percent in this country favor withdrawal, roughly two-thirds opposed the war, and more than half believe it was a mistake.
Supporters of the U.S. invasion and occupation argue that Iraq and the world are better off because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “is gone.”
“So is everything else,” Ambassador Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq told The Final Call. “When I lived there, Iraq had a secular government– which we thought was very good, for an Arab country to have a secular government. Iraq had a multi-party government–Shia, Sunni, Kurds, Christians–which we think is good.
“Women were liberated, which we think is good. The economy was booming, which we think is good. Schools and jobs and factories, and irrigation, and electricity and sewers–all of that was going just beautifully– that was good. And Iraq was able to stand in the path of Iranian expansion, which we though was great,” Mr. Peck continued.
“And what’s left now? Iraq had one of the highest qualities of life and standards of living, and that’s all gone. Will women still be liberated? I don’t know. Is the economy booming? Absolutely not. Can they stand in the path of Iranian expansion? What are you smoking? How many people died? So we have broken the country into pieces. It had only been a country, less than 100 years, and we have shattered it, broken it.
“And in so doing, we have left an awful lot of people in that part of the world, and an awful lot of people who are Muslims all over the world, seriously p—ed off, at us, because we look anti-Islamic. We look anti-Arab. We look thoughtless. We look hateful. And we’re doing the same thing in Afghanistan, and we’re about to do it in Pakistan, and we’re doing it in Yemen, and in Libya.
“So, leaving Iraq is a short run disaster and a long range catastrophe,” Mr. Peck said, “especially since we have done similar things now, in Lebanon which invaded once, you remember? And Afghanistan, which we’ve invaded now; and Pakistan where we’re bombing and rocketing; and Yemen where we’re doing the same; and Somalia where we’re getting involved. In today’s world that is not smart, especially if sober thoughts leads you to the conclusion that none of that is in our interest,” said Mr. Peck, who is also a former military commander.
U.S. officials however, insist the sacrifices were worthwhile. “We have jointly demonstrated, it is worth it, it is worth it–as costly and as difficult and sometimes as controversial as it is,” Vice President Joe Biden said at the official flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad, when U.S. commanders left Iraq Dec. 8.
Iraq’s development, Mr. Biden said, “will bring stability to the region. That is our sole interest in Iraq. Period. End of story.”
Mr. Biden said the U.S. will leave behind civilian experts in a wide range of areas “on hand, in country,” and that the U.S. will also have thousands of security contractors to protect the embassy’s facilities in Baghdad–the world’s largest embassy–as well as diplomatic missions in Kirkuk, Irbil and Basra.
“I’m a realist. I want all the good things to happen,” Mr. Peck said. “If it were up to me, they would happen. I just don’t think Americans, who are convinced that they know everything about the rest of the world, really don’t know anything about the rest of the world, and nobody can tell them.
“I offer you as ‘Exhibit A’ if you’re interested, (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice–who is certainly no dummy by anybody’s estimation– she said, and I quote: ‘America’s role is to remake the world in our image.’ Can you imagine how big that goes over?
“I wanted to be there when she made the speech. I had my hand up, and she said, ‘Yes, you have a question?’ I said, ‘Yes. Dr. Rice, just what image is it that you have in mind? Is it Mississippi, or Rhode Island? Is it Haight-Ashbury, or Bayone (N.J.)? What do you mean image?
“And a second question, Dr. Rice: ‘In order to make Afghanistan into the United States, should we start the experiment by making Rhode Island more like Mississippi, or vice versa, so we can learn what skills are needed before we try to do it with Afghanistan?’ ” he continued.
“I’ll go back in uniform tomorrow, if they need me. I believe in this country, but I must say that it is depressing as hell to deal with so many Americans who are convinced that they understand it all, when in fact they don’t understand it, at all.
“If we’ve got red states and blue states–powerfully different– why would you be surprised that Iraq is not like us? Not better, not worse, just different?
“Americans don’t get it: ‘They all want to be just like us.’ No they do not!” Mr. Peck concluded.
Troops are home from Iraq, but the war is far from over (FCN, 01-01-2012)
Obama envoy secretly offered troops in Iraq after 2011 (FCN, 12-04-2010)
“Collateral Murder” – Report on shocking footage of US military in Iraq (FCN, 04-16-2010)
Collateral Murder Website (CollateralMurder.com)
Revolting video from Iraq and what to do about it (FCN, 04-14-2010)
US mowing down of Iraqis likened to video game (PRESS TV Interview, 04-11-2010)
Report documents lies leading to Iraq war (FCN, 02-06-2008)
More lies for a new war? US spy chief retreats from Iran intel report (PressTV, 02-06-2008)
Minister Farrakhan’s warning to President Bush on Iraq (Oct. 30, 2002)