Iraq War

After 18 Disastrous Years, the U.S. Should Withdraw All Troops From Iraq

I witnessed firsthand how U.S. actions that favored one group inevitably angered another, which is why the war is an endless game of whack-a-mole.

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In 2003, George W. Bush famously declared victory in Iraq, just as the war was about to turn into a deadly and chaotic quagmire. Eighteen years later, an estimated half a million Iraqis and 6,840 U.S troops have perished in the conflict.

Today, the U.S. has 2,500 troops in Iraq, down from a peak of 168,000 in 2007. In July, the government claimed that American troops will no longer engage in combat; instead, they'll only train and assist Iraqi security forces in their fight against ISIS.

This is just diplomatic theater. Iraq's Parliament, which has voted for the U.S. to leave the country, points out that renaming combat troops "trainers and advisers" is deceptive. It also won't prevent the conflict from once again escalating into a cycle of violence and retaliation. The U.S. military is still engaging in airstrikes, and in April, after militias attacked five U.S. facilities, the Biden administration made good on its promise to hit back.

The U.S. should withdraw all troops from Iraq and finally end this disastrous war. Our presence in the country has done the opposite of its stated goal of providing safety and security in the region. 

I was born in Iraq and lived through Saddam's regime, Operation Desert Storm, U.S. sanctions, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Iraqi Civil War. I witnessed firsthand how U.S. actions that favored one group inevitably angered another, which is why the war has been an endless game of whack-a-mole.

In 2003, L. Paul Bremer, who was head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, disbanded the Iraqi army, which was the most disastrous decision in the course of the conflict. The 25-person Interim Governing Council Bremer created was designed to represent the diversity of Iraq's population, but all it did was augment the complexity of Iraq's ethnic and religious groups; the result was inflamed sectarian tensions, which led to a deadly civil war.

The region surrounding Iraq is even more complex. Numerous nations have competed for decades throughout the greater Middle East, from Iran to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and more. When the U.S. removed Saddam, it allowed these foreign interests to work through proxies within Iraq, much as they have in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya.

For the U.S. to bring stability to Iraq, it would need to establish peace in the entire region as well. First, all the Sunni majority nations would need to reconcile with themselves, then the Sunni nations with Iran and Iran's proxies. But as long as the U.S. remains in Iraq, it's destined to favor one side over another, and will only exacerbate the regional conflicts.

The decision by the U.S. to back the Kurds and the Iraqi mobilization forces in their battle against ISIS may appear successful, but changing the region's balance of power has caused new threats to emerge. This situation is analogous to the U.S. experience in Afghanistan: We supported the Mujahideen against the Soviets, only to see those same Mujahideen and their Pakistani backers take full control of the country and become new adversaries in the form of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Similarly, in Iraq, after the fall of ISIS, the Iranian-backed militias that had worked with the U.S., gained new influence within Iraq. And the U.S. presence in the region encouraged other nations to launch their own military operations. Turkey started bombing Syrian Kurds, Saudi Arabia and the UAE joined forces and attacked Yemen, and the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah was caught using American-made equipment that the U.S. had given to the Iraqi military

The result was to strengthen Iran, just as Operation Iraqi Freedom had done back in 2003. 

So the U.S. switched its focus to containing Iranian influence, even assassinating Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, whose militia was largely responsible for the defeat of ISIS. 

This nonsense won't end until there's a complete U.S. withdrawal from the country. 

The U.S. says it's sticking around to support the Iraqi military and government, even though each has publicly stated that they want the Americans to leave. 

There's nothing stopping Bush's disastrous war from going on for another 18 years in an endless loop of military actions, followed by unintended consequences, followed by a military response to deal with those unintended consequences, followed by more unintended consequences. After 18 years, it's time to give up on the hope that U.S. troops can bring peace and stability to Iraq. It's time to bring them all home.

Photos: Fabiano Sipa/Newscom, Helene C. Stikkel DOD/Newscom, Ako Rasheed/Reuters/Newscom, Damir Sagolj Reuters/Newscom, Hussain Ali ZUMA/Newscom, Chine Nouvelle Sipa/Newscom, Moore Mike Mirrorpix/Newscom, The U.S. National Archives.

Music: Yule by Ilan Pustopetski, Artlist

Produced and narrated by Noor Greene, audio by Ian Keyser, additional by graphics Isaac Reese.

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  2. Yup. It is time for the US to actually dust off.

    The problem is that there are too many special interests invested in these forever wars. It is an industry completely created by the government- contractors, career officers, state department and cia analysts, Think Tanks etc etc. There are tens of thousands of US Employees and hangers on whose jobs will disappear over night if the US abandons the middle east. I am sure they have good intentions, but at the end of the day, what do you think a career analyst at the Kurdistan is going to say:
    1) If you review my deeply researched paper on the tribal politics of the Goat Herd family and the Camel Jockey family, you will see the optimal placement of $2 Million will advance our tactical interests in the 1200 person town of Wherethefuckever
    2) We should just save ourselves a couple billion dollars and get the fuck out of dodge.

    We know that the analyst is going to chose 1, and he will be backed by every other person in that eco system. Indeed, for all his faults, it has been revealed (And CHEERED!!) that these Pro-Middle East interveners illegally kept troops in kurdistan when Trump demanded they leave. Whether you agreed with Trump’s decision to disengage or not, the idea that his underlings overruled his decision is catastrophic for the rule of law, and the idea that the US will ever shed these foreign entanglements.

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  3. monkeys killing monkeys killing monkey over pieces of the ground.

    1. Monkeys have tails. I think you mean apes.

      1. Barbary Macaques are called apes, but are technically monkeys.

        1. “Ape has killed ape…Ape has killed ape…Ape has killed ape…”

      2. please direct your complaint to Maynard James Keenan.

      3. Any monophyletic definition of “monkey” includes all apes, and paraphyly is just wrong, man.

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    3. Sand dingers

  4. Semi O/T – Will Kabul fall by next Friday?

    1. Oh, yes. By early next week.

      1. But if only the US had stayed in for a few more [months/years/weeks], victory would have been ours!

        It is a terrible shame that after 20 years, this country’s government couldn’t stand up an army capable of basic competence. I am not being sarcastic- I really think it is horrible that after all the american servicemen gave arms, legs and lives to the Afghani nation, its army is performing worse than the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey French themselves.

        But if we couldn’t fix this shit in two decades and 4 administrations trying, we need to accept that we cannot fix it.

        1. Perhaps the Chinese empire will go there next.

          1. For the rest of the world’s sake, one can only hope they waste their resources trying.

            1. They won’t go in tanks.

        2. It is a terrible shame that after 20 years, this country’s government couldn’t stand up an army capable of basic competence.

          This.

          Afghanistan is only a country on western maps. This was kind of inevitable.

          1. We should have either gone full Saudi Arabia and installed a line of tyrannical but friendly monarchs to rule over all the various tribes with an iron fist or dissolve the country into more of a loose confederation like Italy before Garibaldi or the German Confederation before Bismarck.

            1. Maybe we should have gone full Tamerlane.

            2. We should have turned a few buildings into lakes in Islamabad on 9/12. Including the ISI buildings. (Plus had MBS hold that involuntary slumber party at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton a decade and a half early.)

              If the Pakistanis wanted to throw a nuclear fit over it, well…OK. Decapitating Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent is several magnitudes easier than, say Russia’s or China’s. And after that…tell India to welcome back their recalcitrant province, and let them put heads on sticks.

              Alternately, go into NWTA/KP with a list of the 100-150 guys we wanted, tell the headman, “You can pull the hospitality card, but we’re going in anyway, and butchering everything down to the lice on your favorite chai boy as we do so. Or, you can cut a deal.” And then do it. I think you’d only have to liquidate a few villages to pull it off. Then go home once you’ve gotten your guys

              But that would inevitably result in revealing just how GWB was able to steamroller every other R candidate so early in 1999, I.e.: a truly titanic sum of foreign campaign funding.

              So that wasn’t happening.

            3. Nope. The model to follow was MacArthur’s occupation of Japan. He turned their emperor-worshipping death cult into something about as tepid as the Anglican Church, he upended their economy and hierarchy and got Japanese civilians to take power away from the remnants of the Samurai caste that had taken them into war.

              Success in Afghanistan would require massively reforming their religion, and the political class in the USA didn’t have the guts to attempt it.

              -jcr

              1. That’s absurd. These are middle eastern/west asian countries in name only. In reality they are large beds of gravel- ever shifting small tribes led by elders and “warlords”. There is no history of a single polity in this area, so there is no way to stop the continued violence. If you pacify one tribe, there are 3 others who see an opportunity to take their land/women/sheep and there are 2 others offended that you are dealing with the pacified tribe.

                In the cases of Japan and Germany, you had nationalism to rally the populace around. “Yes you lost, but your country fought hard. We respect you, and we are here to help you become great again.” I read some stories back in 2002 when we were invading, about the spec ops guys that went there to rally the warlords. These people didn’t understand why the US was there- they weren’t humiliated after a war they started. They were following whoever the toughest guy was in the room. And that was the US Trooper. They didn’t care why he was there (reporters showed them pictures of the Trade Center burning, and they shrugged).

                There is nothing to be gained from this region. We should have continued with energy independence and then left these regions to fight it out amongst themselves.

        3. Yeah, I mean it’s not like in my lifetime there was another superpower who tried to take over and rebuild Afghanistan in a more friendly image and was stuck in an interminable war that ended with things worse than when they started.

          Who could possibly have foreseen this turn of events?

          1. Alexander the Great? Damn, you’re old!!

            Brezhnev is laughing at us from beyond the grave.

            1. Bush tells Brezhnev “Hold my beer”
              .

            2. Alexander took a look at it and passed right by

              1. When some terrain makes Alexander go “nope, we’re good” it’s worth taking a second look before you decide to head in.

        4. This, but it didn’t stop Brian Kilmeade from having a gigantic war boner on Fox and Friends this morning. Why is he so anxious to send his kids and their friends to fight to make Afghanistan like the U.S. when it is obvious the Afghan people could give a damn about surrendering to the Taliban?

          1. Because his kids will get an HQ job piloting drones.

        5. Ironically, this probably wouldn’t be happening right now if we’d left earlier (like in May, when Trump had us scheduled to leave until the Biden regime put us back in).

          1. No. I am pretty sure that it would be happening no matter what. Whether you like Trump or Not, much of this withdrawal was based on a plan he kicked off.

            This country fell apart in a couple weeks. There is nothing that could have been done back in April/May that would suddenly turn these capitulating, paper tiger armies into competent defenders. This was always going to be the outcome, and the real sad fact is that this country had to take 20 years to finally decide they had enough.

            1. Oh, it definitely would have happened eventually, just not within a week of US troops “leaving”. The agreement would likely have held for a couple of years at least before the Taliban found an excuse to continue.

              Although one has to wonder how much muscle they were able to recruit for this offensive just purely on the fact that the US reneged on its agreement and if they would have otherwise been able to move so quickly.

            2. One of the Talibans public complaints the last month is America being liars because biden pushed back the dates without agreement.

              1. And and much as… sensible people don’t want to admit it, Trump’s rep/perception as an unpredictable nutcase made people think twice before doing something that might result in him, say, droning to oblivion their top general.

                1. Trump does tit for tat. If the Taliban played ball, so would he. Not like the Taliban weren’t going to win anyway.

                  Defect from the deal, and the gloves might’ve come off. Up to and including bombing targets in Pakistan. So why defect?

        6. It’s all good – Daddy Gov Biden just let the Taliban have hundreds of billions worth of weapons and is now sending 3,000 troops back in

          1. Check that – up to 5,000 now.
            Kabul already under attack.
            If airport gets taken, big trouble for any Americans not already out. No escape by land possible.

            How the hell do you not get all civilians out, destroy weapons, and disable vehicles before withdrawing the troops?
            Hard to excuse that as innocent error.

            1. Only our Government has to send troops in to get troops out! What a clusterfuck!

        7. One thing that we could have done, and could do yet, is legalize opiods, splice the Kudzu growth gene with opium, and just flood the global market with cheap, diluted, controlled for content, strength, and purity, legal opiods,

          This would completely undermine the only thing Afghanistan has going for it, while at the same time ending “The War On Some Drugs” on our streets. The “Graveyard of Empires” would be made even more backwards than it is and would be unable to assist Islamic terrorism any more!

          Maybe after having nothing else to lose, the Afghans will shed their horrific culture and religion, find some other commodities to sell, and join the family of man!

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    3. It’s falling now.

      I would not be surprised to see the Taliban mount a suicide attack on the US Embassy in the next 24 hours. Not with the aim of dying, but to try and take the position—and a shit-ton of loot, I mean hostages—before US .Mil can get those three Marine battalions off their asses and are able to defend the area.

      We’re about to see Benghazi/Tehran ’79 on a much larger scale. Depends on what China wants the Pakis to tell the Talibs to do.

      1. Hell, if the Marines do get there, but can’t be supplied—say, because the PRC advisers no doubt aiding the Taliban, are packing road-mobile SAMs—-we might see a repeat of the Chinese Gordon debacle.

        The US military requires air supremacy to do a lot of what they like to do—like resupply/exfiltrate a BDE-sized element, 400 miles from an allied country (Pakistan doesn’t count, in this instance). Take that away, and interesting things start happening.

        This has the potential of being really bad, really fast for the US.

  5. For the U.S. to bring stability to Iraq, it would need to establish peace in the entire region as well.

    Ahem. Don’t you mean “For the U.*N*. to bring stability”?

  6. Ahh, the Bush regime was when I began posting here.

    Never had I seen such an attack on liberty and limited Government. I called them the “Bushpigs”.

    But some posters here said – well, Bush is better than Clinton!

    Bullshit.

    Some things never change.

    1. Yeah, I remember I’d say something “You know, using drones to blow up weddings isn’t a good way to make friends” and get piled on for hating America and loving terrorists.
      Some things never change.

      1. Man. You were always a victim weren’t you.

    2. “I called them the ‘Bushpigs’ … Some things never change.”

      Actually, things have fundamentally changed in two decades. Many of the early 2000s neocons who helped sell the Iraq War are on our side now, Mr. Buttplug. Here are just a few examples:

      Jeffrey Goldberg was writing about the Iraq / Al Qaeda connection in 2002. He’s now at the important #Resistance magazine The Atlantic.

      Bill Kristol wrote an entire book advocating the Iraq War. He now endorses Democrats.

      David Frum wrote Bush’s “axis of evil” line, as well as a book calling Bush “The Right Man.” Like Kristol, he’s also effectively a Democrat now.

      Colin Powell was a member of the Bush Administration who helped build the case for invading Iraq. Also basically a garden variety Democrat these days.

      Robert Mueller was warning about Iraq’s WMDs in the early 2000s. He would later become a #Resistance icon by proving Drumpf is a Russian intelligence asset.

      #LibertariansForEmbracingNeocons

      1. ah, the Lincoln Project… higher taxes are fine, if they are spent on war.

      2. I wouldn’t trust any of those arse holes. Half of them are chews.
        They all need to be dragged down Pennsylvania Ave.behind an F-250.
        I no longer have any trust, faith, confidence or belief in Washington, D.C.
        None.
        I loath government. Government is evil, it is force , it is violence, even against the people of this nation, it has no problem committing violence against the American people. None at all.
        The government in Washington has become the greatest enemy of the American people, greater than any foreign power. It is filled with traitors, liars, thieves, robbers, crooks and murderers. It is run by the incompetent and staffed by idiots. Its main work force is made up of sloven morons who never had marketable skills in the outside world so they chose government work, in the form of faceless bureaucrats with too much power , too much paycheck and too little intellect. The lot of them are incompetent fools, ignorant beyond compare with no idea of the outside world.
        They live within a bubble of fakery and flim flam.
        The nation as a whole would do better without them.

        1. https://twitter.com/MayorOfFoCo/status/1426405028361691136?t=klg9l3maHwdOTuksWDu1Pg&s=19

          The government has declared your right to object to their covid measures as terrorism. [Link]

          1. The vague “9/11 and Religious Holidays” bulletpoint under the heading of “Potential Terror Threats” is extremely disconcerting as well.

            There is no war on Christmas. Only civilian massacres.

        2. Are Bill Bennett, Dick Cheney, and Sean Hannity all (((chews))) too?

          Funny, with names like that, I thought Neo-Cons were all Irish Catholics.

          Well, chew on this: You know who else liked “nation-building” and “winning hearts and minds?”

      3. Marianne Wiliamson just supported fighting the Taliban to protect women’s rights..yes thats right kids..American Rural Kids should die for the left’s favorite policies..I guess we will be told by Kristol and Pelosi we need to fight in “anyStan” to make abortion legal…

        The wokes all need to go..for good

      4. Drain the quagmire!

    3. turd lies. It’s what turd does. Every post from turd is a lie. He’s a psychopathic liar to stupid to realize that it’s obvious.
      turd lies

    4. But some posters here said – well, Bush is better than Clinton!

      Bush is better than Hillary.

  7. 18 years?

    How about….
    Korea, 68 years, 26K troops
    Japan, 76 years, 54K troops
    Germany, 76 years, 35K troops
    Italy, 76 years, 12K troops
    Spain, 123 years, 3K troops
    United Kingdom, 206 years, 10K troops
    Turkey, 103 years, 2K troops

    1. We hard troops in Spain even under Francisco Franco?

      1. Correction: We had troops in Spain even under Francisco Franco?

  8. If you don’t have the stomach to end a war, don’t start one.

  9. She is 100% right. It goes back to what Ron Paul said in the debate, that 9/11 happened because of the US involvement with Saudi Arabia. The whole region is a hornet’s nest that any outside country should avoid.

    As for their oil…so what? If they can manage to export it to us, we can buy it. And if not, it isn’t the end of the world. Just think of the trillions of dollars the US has spent, just to keep the oil flowing. Not to mention the lives lost.

    1. We no longer need their damn oil, once the Keystone Pipeline is started again and we have oil rigs on all of our coasts and even try drilling the Appalachians and elsewhere throughout the U.S.A. Nor does Europe with the oil in the North Sea, nor does Israel, which now has more oil of it’s own than SaudibArabia!

      Let Saudi Arabia, Iran, and every other OPEC nation go belly-up and that will be our comeuppance to them. They’ll have to diversify and free their economies or die, which will mean ultimately rejecting Islam and setting up a Six Flags Over Tehran and A Whole New DisneyWorld in Mecca and Medina!

      1. Agreed, except that the Keystone pipeline was cancelled by Biden.

        1. Then we un-cancel it when he goes all drool-drippy on us and has to be carted out to the happy home.

  10. The only two I loath and despise worse than W and Rummy are LBJ and McNamara. In either case I hope to live long enough to piss on the graves of all four, especially LBJ and his lickspittle monkey McNamara. Followed by a messy defecation ,diesel fuel and flames.
    Total desecration of their graves.
    It’s a pity there isn’t a hell for the lot of them to go to.
    And here’s something for those at reason to investigate:McNamara’s Folley:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=_J2VwFDV4-g

  11. Reads like a high school book report.

    Too many assertions of opinion as fact without supporting information.

    Needs an editor with a strong hand on writing form without bending ideology.

  12. Exactly. I don’t give a flying-fuck what part the individual claims: We need to GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ!

  13. Exactly. I don’t give a flying-fuck what party the individual claims: We need to GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ!

    Reply

  14. Oh, and by the way:
    I know you aren’t paying much attention to how the withdrawal in Afghanistan is going, but the absolute shitshow it’s so quickly turned into (possibly by design), with the Taliban seizing something like 70% of the country in a matter of days and the Biden admin begging them not to go after Americans while 5,000 troops are sent back in, is going to make leaving Iraq a lot less likely.

    1. We were there for almost 20 years and trained their “elite commandos” and apparently cannot repel cave dwelling terrorists for two weeks about American assistance. Doesn’t anyone there no how to operate drones?

  15. Kabul will fall in 48 hours..neocons and neolibs are screaming for young American rural kids to die for their US empire..making the world safe for Goldman Sachs..and defense contractors, think tanks, analysts and all the war grifters in academia and the corportate media.

  16. wow I called that….ha ha

    I hear the taliban are now calling humvees “McCains”

  17. The mistake was not getting civilians out first before announcing anything, then removing and/or destroying an military equipment so the Taliban couldn’t get it. Now struggling to make sure civilians get out and defend the airport to allow it to happen. A very sloppy operation, Biden is commander in chief, where are the military leaders that did not have an organized plan?
    Glad we are leaving but this fiasco should cause some consequences for the incompetent.

  18. “…Glad we are leaving but this fiasco should cause some consequences for the incompetent.”

    We had a POTUS with a multi-month plan and a treaty with the Taliban, but mean tweets meant we got droolin’ Joe.

  19. Nation building will always be a failure. It is even more destructive that outright colonization. With colonization at least there is a vested interested to end the violence by the colonizer. Of course we should not do either. We have been in a constant state of war and it’s time to come home and let these countries develop their own equilibrium. It is very likely that they will develop something that is not a mirror of our system, but it’s their country not ours.

    We need a strong military to defend ourselves, but the operative word is defend. If we are actually attacked, then we should respond, but we attack for minor things and usually there is an argument that the attack was prompted by the CIA or another alphabet agency meddling in another country’s business.

    If the USA is the shining light of freedom, an example for the world we need to improve what we are modeling to the world. We often are the 6000 lbs bully in the room. The USA offers countries a choice to freely decide to do what we force them to do. This is not anything but bullying.

    Like Afghanistan, we have been in Iraq for far too long. We have become the problem not the solution. This does not mean that the effects of a withdrawal will be pretty or non violent.

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