In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
It was shocking to hear and read: American Marines allegedly shot at least 15 innocent Iraqis, including women and children, in cold blood after a colleague is killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha, Iraq. While multiple investigations into the alleged massacre continue, the entire incident raises an important question: what in God’s Most Holy Name are we doing in Iraq? The entire incident tells me that it is high time to get out of Iraq…now.
It is no secret that I was against this war from the very beginning. There was absolutely no link between Iraq and the September 11 attacks. And the weapons of mass destruction claim was dubious before the war (and found to be false after the war). Yet, we went to war anyway, and we are now stuck in this mess today. Before the Haditha incident, I was wont to say that we can’t pull out until we have “finished the job.” After Haditha, however, I feel differently. It is time to get out of Iraq and get out quickly at that.
Now that Iraq has been liberated from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein (who is currently on trial); now that a new, democratically-elected government has been installed; now that Abu Musa’b Al Zarqawi has been killed, what is left for us to do? What exactly is our mission now?
So many say that, if American troops leave, there will be chaos and all-out civil war in Iraq. Thus, we must stay. But, despite our presence there, chaos is what reigns in Iraq today. There is very little security in Iraq, and bombings have become part of daily life for Iraqis. Is this stability?
In addition, so many who have come back from Iraq have said that Iraq is in the midst of a brutal civil war already. Every day, dozens of Iraqis turn up dead from sectarian killings. Entire neighborhoods are being “ethnically cleansed” of Sunnis or Shia. Are our soldiers intervening in the raging civil war between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq? Are they preventing the tit-for-tat killings between Sunnis and Shia? Do we even want them to do so? The answers to each of these questions is no.
So, what exactly are we doing there? The Iraqis have their own army and security forces. Let them deal with the insurgency. The United States can support the Iraqi army financially and logistically. But, do we have to support it physically with 130,000 troops?
I keep reading that the new Iraqi government is pleading for us to stay in Iraq. But, we have to start thinking what is best for the United States. The presence of our troops in Iraq is quickly becoming an enormous liability. In an article in this week’s Newsweek, Evan Thomas and Scott Johnson write about how “Iraqi leaders have long protested abuses by the American occupiers (even as they privately beseech the Americans to stay and keep the country from falling into civil war).” Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was quoted by the New York Times as saying that many American soldiers “do not respect the Iraqi people. They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion.”
Indeed, in the article, Clif Hicks, an American soldier who had left a tank squadron at Camp Slayer in Baghdad, said: “People were taking steroids, Valium, hooked on painkillers, drinking. They’d go on raids and patrols totally stoned. We’re killing the wrong people all the time, and mostly by accident. One guy in my squadron ran over a family with his tank.” Hicks also claims that “there’s a lot of guys who steal from the Iraqis. Money, family heirlooms, and then they brag about it. Guys would crap into MRE bags and throw them to old men begging for food.”
Then there is the incident at Haditha, which may be the worst incident since My Lai in Vietnam. According to the Newsweek article, civilians are “routinely killed in Iraq in ambiguous situations – during fire fights with insurgents or when they fail to slow down and stop at a checkpoint. It is difficult to know how often the shootings are unwarranted or could be called war crimes. Investigations tend to get launched and then drag on and sometimes just fade away.”
If it is confirmed that the Marines at Haditha did indeed intentionally kill civilians and then cover it up, how do we know that there are not more Hadithas occurring each and every day (as many Iraqis have been claiming for a while now)? And why would those Marines do this? The stress of battle? Probably. The tremendous pressure of being under constant attack by insurgents? Probably. In revenge for the death of their comrade? Possibly. The so-called “fog of war”? Possibly. Out of hatred for Arabs and Muslims? My God, I sure hope and pray that this is not the case.
Whatever the case may be, the question remains: why continue to place those young men and women in such an environment? To what end? The more incidents such as that at Haditha will only further poison the image of the United States, not only in the eyes of Iraqis, but in the Muslim World as well. Indeed, a survivor of the Haditha incident told Newsweek: “The Americans are murderers, criminals. They have no mercy.” This is exactly the wrong message to send to Muslims around the world.
Why can’t we just pull out of Iraq? The President said that he won’t bring the troops home until we have “achieved victory” in Iraq? What exactly is the precise definition of “victory” in Iraq? What is the benchmark of success? With everything that both Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed in the name of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the President at least owes the American people an explanation. Simply telling us, “We will leave when the Iraqis are ready to be on their own” is not enough, Mr. Bush. The American people deserve answers.