So President Obama visited Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Wednesday and thanked the troops there for a job well done as the nation wraps up its military presence in Iraq:
Tomorrow the colors of United States Forces-Iraq, the colors you fought under, will be formally cased in a ceremony in Baghdad. Then they’ll begin their journey across an ocean back home. Over the last three years, nearly 150,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq, and over the next few days, a small group of American soldiers will begin the final march out of that country…One of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American military will come to an end. Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its people. America’s war in Iraq will be over.
It’s dispiriting that we can’t reflect quietly on the war’s costs and benefits before descending into political wrangling.
As the President headed to Fort Bragg, the conservatives over at the Foreign Policy Initiative issued their own pre-post-war critique:
There are fears, especially in Sunni and Kurdish quarters, that when the U.S. military leaves, Iraq may spiral once again into civil war. Moreover, as the United States withdraws from Iraq, Iran—which provides significant weapons and financial assistance to Shiite militia groups in Iraq —is moving to solidify its influence on Baghdad’s Shiite-dominated government. As Iran makes steady progress toward a nuclear weapons capability and faces the potential loss of its ally Syria, its interests are well-served by America’s withdrawal from Iraq.
And from the more liberal side, the National Security Network returned fire:
As the last U.S. troops leave Iraq this month — a move that commands significant expert, popular and international support — proponents of continuing the war have resorted to faulty and highly political responses…Ending the war will make America safer and is the best way to honor the sacrifices of those who have served…Challenges remain, but a continued American troop presence still will not solve them.
It’s sad that the end of a war doesn’t allow for some quiet reflection, almost as if the nation were hearing Taps for the nearly 4,500 U.S. troops, and more than 100,000 Iraqis, who perished in the fight. Instead, it seems to serve more as a starting pistol for political bile. Here’s a radical idea: for all the nation’s military families who have sacrificed so much, for so long, for, and in, Iraq: can the talking heads shut up until 2012, and give the nation a couple of weeks to welcome the final U.S. troops home from that nation unsullied by partisan rhetoric?