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Jun-04-2013 10:46printcomments

Can the U.S. Claim Victory in Iraq?

The Iraq war cost U.S. taxpayers $810 billion and counting. Imagine how much health care, social services, education, housing, fire and police this money could have purchased.

Map of Iraq

(SAN FRANCISCO) - Following the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq in December 2011, can the U.S. claim victory or did the Obama administration adopt the face-saving solution of “Just declare victory and get out,” a position proposed by the late Senator George Akin of Vermont at the end of the Vietnam war?

What does victory mean and why did the U.S. invade and occupy Iraq in the first place? The reasons given by the Bush Administration proved to be contrived: Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction; no links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, or any Iraqi operational act against the U.S., was established; and, as Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, speaking on the Iraq invasion and occupation, said, “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

The costs of the Iraq war have been tremendous in terms of lives lost. Since the war began in March 19, 2003, over 4,400 US lives have been lost, and over 650,000 Iraqis were killed.

The Iraq war cost U.S. taxpayers $810 billion and counting. Imagine how much health care, social services, education, housing, fire and police this money could have purchased.

Additionally, we became the thugs the world when it was learned the U.S. used torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, at secret detention centers round the world, and the CIA conducted renditions or extrajudicial secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Uzbekistan and elsewhere.


And in the aftermath of September 11, the Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act, which expanded government surveillance powers and the scope of some criminal laws. We have held prisoners at Guantánamo without charges for over a decade.

Did we sow the seeds of democracy in Iraq? Iraq has had elections, but its lauded democracy is tenuous at best. Elections do not necessarily a democracy make.

Iraq has three large ethnic groups: Kurds in the north; Sunnis in the middle; and Shiites, the most populous group, in the south. Given the ethnic and religious rivalry among these three groups and the ever-presence of al-Qaeda, there is little evidence that an Iraq democracy will last now that the U.S. military has left. In fact, there is little evidence that democracy will take root throughout the Middle East.

We did eliminate Saddam Hussein and placed Nuri Kamal al-Maliki as Prime Minister, a position he hopes to continue well into the future. Al-Maliki has been trying to gain control over the armed groups in his country as a means to consolidate his power. Instead of bringing the Shiite and Sunni Arabs together, al-Maliki has sought to marginalize the Sunnis. He has resisted integrating Sunnis into the army. He has accused senior Sunni politicians of being terrorists, hounded them from power and, thus, lost the cooperation of the Sunni community. Unless Maliki is forced to resign and replaced by a more conciliatory figure, there is the real possibility of civil war.


And there is the ever-presence of al-Qaeda’s Iraqi arm, known as the Islamic State of Islam, who are suspected of instigating a series of recent car bombings throughout Iraq. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Iraq by al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents in May alone. The goal of al-Qaeda seems to be to undermine Iraqi confidence in the Shiite-led government.

Finally, now that the U.S. has left Iraq, Iran has a market for its goods which is helping to relieve the U.S.-European Union boycott against Iraq.

It remains to be seen whether the Iraq “war” was won. But, clearly, the U.S. had no moral or legal basis for invading and continuing to occupy Iraq. Whether the war was won or not, the U.S. was right to leave Iraq.

Finally, I agree with President Obama that terrorism should now be treated as a criminal activity instead of a war on terrorism. This recasts the terrorists as cowardly thugs instead of enemy warriors.

For a complete overview of the Iraq conflict from its beginning in 2003 until mid-2012, I suggest reading Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights.  

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Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address stonere@earthlink.net

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Ralph E. Stone June 6, 2013 8:03 am (Pacific time)

Ms. Wilson, that's quite a snarky remark. Let's look at the facts. With the collapse of the discussions about extending the stay of any U.S. troops beyond 2011, where they would not be granted any immunity from the Iraqi government, on 21 October 2011, President Obama announced at a White House press conference that all remaining U.S. troops and trainers would leave Iraq by the end of the year as previously scheduled, bringing the U.S. mission in Iraq to an end. Yes, the 5-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU does provide for high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges; professional military education cooperation; counter-terrorism cooperation; the development of defense intelligence capabilities; and joint exercises. During the Iraq conflict as many as 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and the last 13,000 left in December 2011. Yes, the MOU does provide for U.S. troops to be used as advisors and trainers. In sum, the Iraqis will do the fighting with a few U.S. advisors and trainers as support. That to me means the U.S. has ended its Iraq "war."


BT June 5, 2013 1:20 pm (Pacific time)

It seems for some that one's terrorist is another's criminal. Ralph as you know when ALGORE conceded the election early election eve, this suppressed the voting in western time zones for those who generally come out to vote for presidential candidates, and many ignore local issues, so they didn't vote. Please note that Bush beat Kerry in Florida by nearly 400,000 votes in 2004, and that was when western Florida voters voted. Extrapolate that with earlier election years in western states. Just the same please note that the House of Representatives and state legislatures more accurately reflects our nations political alliances. With nearly 30 Republican governors and the majority of state legislatures in conservative hands, and congressional reps, it's clear, at this time, how American voters line up. As per your viewpoint on Vietnam, and what happened to innocent civilians in other S.E. Asian countries, well millions died. The exodus of the "Boat People" was a real event Ralph. Maybe an exchange of info with a cross section of these people who came to North America may be informative for you in regards to your misunderstanding of just what horrible genocide has been going on in this part of the world since the 1970's, maybe not?


Ralph E. Stone June 5, 2013 7:43 am (Pacific time)

BT: When you said Bush won a "resounding victory in 2000," I assume you were being humorous. Actually, Gore won the popular vote and Bush won the electoral vote 50.4 to 49.4 percent. If Gore had taken Florida, he would have won the electoral vote as well. Actually, the pundits who predicted a loss in Vietnam would mean the rest of Southeast Asia would fall as well. That didn't happen. We shouldn't have been in Vietnam anyway. "Progressive liberals" didn't start the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was ultra-right hawks in the Bush White House. You use war terms when speaking of terrorists. Actually, terrorists are just criminals with a fancy title and should be dealt with like any other criminals.


Ann Wilson June 5, 2013 5:44 am (Pacific time)

It's really hard to take Salem-News seriously when they print columns like this. In September of last year, Tim Arango reported for the New York Times: Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/world/middleeast/iraq-faces-new-perils-from-syrias-civil-war.html?ref=world I didn't expect Salem-News to be part of a coverup. Barack Obama has sent troops back into Iraq a fact that the writer of this column is unaware of which makes the whole column in error.


BT June 4, 2013 2:58 pm (Pacific time)

Bush gave the same reasons for invading Iraq as those that had been opined for by such warriors as Senator's Levin, Feinstein, Boxer, Clinton, Kerry and so many more during the late 1990's. Prior to Bush's resounding victory in 2000, a victory verified by every major news source who went privately and counted all votes once again. Of course discounting the tiny turn out of the western Florida counties because Gore had given up, until after the polls closed and asked for a recount. Anyway as I recall telling the late Sen. Wayne Morse from Oregon during the summer of 1968, if we pull out of Vietnam before we have a formal surrender from North Vietnam, millions will die throughout SE Asia. That did happen as a democratic congress pulled the plug on finances. Now we have Obama, a purely political individual who will be responsible for the rest of the Christians being slaughtered in the middle east, and the ultimate precursor to WWIII. All these deaths since WWI have been directly related to progressive liberals who essentially made us appear weak. This comes from the same DNA that has caused such unbearable pain and discrimination for African-Americans. Terrorism when done by groups who claim they are doing so for a specific ideology is an act of war and they should be treated as enemy combatants when in uniform. If not in uniform, the laws are clear. You do not negotiate with terrorists or those who support them, no how minor that support is.

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