Thursday, December 22, 2011

Withdrawal of Last US Troops From Iraq

The last US soldiers have rolled out of Iraq across the border to neighboring Kuwait, whooping, fist bumping and hugging each other in a burst of joy and relief. Their exit marked the end of a bitterly divisive war that raged for nearly nine years and left Iraq shattered, with troubling questions lingering over whether the Arab nation will remain a steadfast US ally. The mission cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the US Treasury. The question of whether it was worth it all is yet unanswered.
Captain Mark Askew, a 28-year-old from Tampa, Florida who was among the last soldiers to leave, said the answer to that question will depend on what type of country and government Iraq ends up with years from now, whether they are democratic, respect human rights and are considered a US ally.
Whither Stubborn Sectarian Clashes
US officials acknowledged the cost in blood and dollars was high, but tried to paint a picture of victory for both the troops and the Iraqi people now freed of a dictator and on a path to democracy.
But gnawing questions remain: Will Iraqis be able to forge their new government amid the still stubborn sectarian clashes. And will Iraq be able to defend itself and remain independent in a region fraught with turmoil and still steeped in insurgent threats.
Many Iraqis, however, are nervous and uncertain about the future. Their relief at the end of Saddam Hussein, who was hanged on the last day of 2006, was tempered by a long and vicious war that was launched to find nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and nearly plunged the nation into full-scale sectarian civil war.
Some criticized the Americans for leaving behind a destroyed country with thousands of widows and orphans, a people deeply divided along sectarian lines and without rebuilding the devastated infrastructure.
Some Iraqis celebrated the exit of what they called American occupiers, neither invited nor welcome in a proud country. Others said that while grateful for US help ousting Saddam, the war went on too long. A majority of Americans would agree, according to opinion polls.
The low-key exit stood in sharp contrast to the high octane start of the war, which began before dawn on March 20, 2003, with an air strike in southern Baghdad where Saddam was believed to be hiding. US and allied ground forces then stormed across the featureless Kuwaiti desert, accompanied by reporters, photographers and television crews embedded with the troops.
Saddam’s Secret Nuclear Weapon Program
The task assigned to them in 2003 has been accomplished. The United States under President George W. Bush entered the Iraqi war theatre after it had made substantial gains in Afghanistan where it had toppled the Taliban regime in the wake of 9/11. He found an excellent opportunity to use the anti-terrorism plank to achieve Washington’s larger objective of ensuring energy security. Unverified intelligence reports about Iraqi ruler Saddam’s “secret” nuclear weapon program were enough for President Bush to go ahead with his new plan. He also found out that Saddam had close connections with Al-Qaida mastermind Osama Bin Ladin.
The United States also did not bother about seeking the UN Security Council’s sanction for attacking Iraq. Even when it was conclusively proved that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and that Saddam had no link with Al-Qaida — both being ideologically poles apart — Iraq was bombarded and Saddam dethroned. Later, he was captured and executed. Iraq was liberated from the clutches of the tyrant. What could have been done by the people of Iraq during the Arab Spring now was finished by the US with the use of its military might. But can this be justified legally, morally, ethically or otherwise? The debate is still on.
Iran-Iraq Shia Bloc
Ousting and killing Saddam, a secular despot, may have gladdened US Arab allies, who are despotic but quasi-theocratic. Ironically, it also pleased Shia Iran as the United States leaves behind a Shia-run Iraq. A consolidated Iran-Iraq Shia bloc will be to the liking of neither America’s Arab allies nor the United States itself. In short, the times ahead in West Asia are likely to be threatened with prospects of heightened tension. Such a state of affairs may not always fall short of actual fighting, not least when the US continues to play the ouster game in West Asia in the name of promoting democracy.
Undoubtedly, the Iraq war was unpopular from day one within the United States. It had been launched on clearly false premises. US President Barack Obama wanted to end the campaign he had inherited. He gave himself the deadline of December 31 this year, and has stuck to it. But it is lost on no one — not in Iraq, not in the United States — that the United States may have wanted to extend its stay in a reduced way for strategic reasons, but could not.

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