Archived Opinion

Pressure mounts to get out of Iraq

Many of us who call these mountains home rely on the isolation, the distance from the cold realities of modern times that one can find in a home nestled deep in a high mountain cove. But it’s really a false hope, and all it takes is a few events to bring us back to the here and now.

For me and for many of us the Iraqi war has thrust itself front and center in the last few days. A combination of events — the death of Canton native Michael Parrott, the political parrying in Washington, and a column in this paper by a man who has a talent for analyzing information and formulating original thoughts — has helped me come to grips with my own conviction that we need to either drastically change policies or get out of Iraq. I think the latter alternative is the wisest. This war needs to end. By staying in Iraq, America is risking more than it stands to gain.

 

The high road

When President George Bush and his wife Laura attended a Protestant church service in China over the weekend as a snub to a regime that still does not permit religious freedoms and is a documented abuser of human rights, I was proud to be an American. This is how we should, in my mind, export American values. We back down to no one, pressing for change by showing that we believe in the right of all people to live free. This symbolic gesture by Bush put him on a moral high ground which the brutal Chinese cabal of leaders simply can not reach.

That’s a similar philosophy to the one that cost Michael Parrott his life. The native son of Canton was dedicated to his country and believed strongly in the ideals that this country stood for, said his wife. He thought the Iraqi war was wrong, but he supported this country and its message of freedom.

As a reservist for a unit out of Pennsylvania, the 49-year-old Colorado resident wanted to earn enough time to get 20 years and the retirement benefits. Instead, he was shot dead by a sniper while on patrol in Al Khalidiyah, a town about 60 miles west of Baghdad. Parrott’s love of country was more important to him than the bad decisions of a particular group of politicians.

Unfortunately, the current administration seldom takes the high road. While Bush showed in China he is capable of doing the right thing, too often the leadership we now have in Washington worries more about defending their policies than taking a hard look at whether they are working. Rep. John Murtha is a decorated war veteran who is known as a hawk and is perhaps the most respected military spokesman in the Democratic Party. He voted to invade Iraq, but last week he made an emotional plea on the floor of Congress for a quick withdrawal of American troops.

The war can’t be won and is not worth the continued sacrifice of our troops, said Murtha. The retired Marine colonel had been asking for information on various aspects of the war for months — reasoning behind troop deployment numbers, information on equipment for soldiers, changes in insurance procedures to help soldiers after they return from the war — and was mostly just given the cold shoulder by the administration. He called Bush’s conduct toward Congress “arrogant.”

Immediately the administration attacked Rep. Murtha with guns blazing. He was unpatriotic and irresponsible, they said. Presidential spokesperson Scott McClellan compared Murtha to moviemaker Michael Moore and the ultra left wing of the Democratic Party.

 

Terrorists prop up Bush

It was typical of this administration to attack the messenger while still rallying around the mantra that Iraq is the front line on the war on terrorism. The Islamic terrorists, in reality, may be doing this president a favor. His popularity at home is falling, but no matter how good the Bush administration has become at earning the U.S. hatred around the world, it has one trump card: the radical Islamists are indeed the epitome of evil.

A group of people who refuse to condemn or try to bring an end to suicide bombings of innocent people is simply sick. Americans want to be safe from these terrorists, although it is becoming increasingly obvious that fighting in Iraq isn’t going to accomplish that. The threat of terrorism gives Bush a layer of insulation to withstand any number of bad decisions.

The other side of the coin, though, is that many people throughout the world — even in this hemisphere, as witnessed during the trip to South and Latin America last week — believe America is simply a blubbering, powerful bully. In other words, we are seen by many as not much better or more morally superior than those Islamic radicals that are the central focus of everything this administration does. That is an indictment of a scope that is difficult to comprehend, especially when one thinks back to the post-9/11 outpouring of sympathy.

And it makes gestures like the one by George Bush as he visited China less meaningful than they might otherwise be.

 

Louder, stronger, better

But the tide is turning. More Americans are wondering if this war can be won. And with an interim Iraqi government in place, a ratified constitution and new elections coming in December, much of the work that started with the invasion in May 2003 is done. It is time to let the Iraqis do their own bidding.

Last week in this space, Lee Shelton of Maggie Valley wrote a powerful column about the Iraqi war. He analyzed our casualty history and our current deployment numbers and came to the conclusion that we have done our job. The two votes mentioned above, along with the fact that a maximum deployment of 150,000 is not enough to get the job done, led him to the belief that it is time to leave.

“We have done enough; or at least our brave soldiers and Marines have. It is a job well done,” Shelton wrote.

Two days after that column was published, Rep. Murtha made a similar argument on the floor of the House. His speech led to the most contentious debate yet on this war. A couple of days later, a respected New York Times columnist was also arguing that it was more costly to stay than to pull out. A chorus of voices is protesting the loss of men like Michael Parrott, stepping forward to say that we don’t want to stay in Iraq if our leaders aren’t taking the steps necessary to win this war and refuse to develop a planned withdrawal.

A pullout may send Iraq into chaos, may invite nearby regimes to try and seize control, could mean more sectarian violence, and could completely disrupt the world petroleum markets. The truth, though, is that the current situation is also terrible. Americans are being killed, as are Iraqis, and terrorists both home-grown and foreign seem to be everywhere.

It’s time to come home and stop trying to export ideals by force of arms. It just doesn’t work.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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