The announcement by President Barack Obama that the U.S. will withdraw all of its troops from Iraq by December 31st brings the issue of the war full circle.
In October 2002, then State Senator Barack Obama declared his opposition to the Bush administration’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq, in an empassioned speech in Chicago, declaring himself not opposed to all wars — his grandfather fought in World War II — but to “a dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”
In 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama used his opposition to the Iraq war to provide a key point of difference between himself, and then-front runner Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted in favor of the Iraq war. Obama again declared himself to be no pacifist — he not only supported the war in Afghanistan, but insisted he would fight it more aggressively than John McCain, taking the fight into the border region with Pakistan — but rather, determined to see an end to U.S. operations in Iraq.
WATCH PRESIDENT OBAMA’ STATEMENT ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ:
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After he got elected, Obama disappointed some of his most ardent supporters on the left by following the blueprint for the Iraq war drawdown left to him by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in 2008 with the new Iraqi government called for a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of this year. But in recent months, the Obama administration had weighed the possibility of negotiating a new agreement to allow between 3,000 and 4,000 troops to remain in that country to continue training Iraqi troops.
By abandoning that tack, after the Iraqi parliament apparently balked giving those troops immunity from the Iraqi legal system, Obama has committed to ending a more than eight year saga that has cost 4,479 American lives (out of 4,797 coalition deaths overall), along with scores of injured troops and strained families, and more than $800 billion.
That saga ends, fittingly, with a sovereign Iraq making the decision to rid itself the U.S. military presence. And it removes the possibility of a small, but potentially vulnerable American target staying behind in the Green Zone.
For Obama, the end of the war gives him another opportunity to declare a campaign promise — and in this case, a defining one — fulfilled.
Republicans, who were loathe to credit the administration with the NATO miltiary operation which finally ended the dictatorship of Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, should be cautious about seeking to take political advantage of the final chapter of the Iraq war. There is no weakness to be found in the American president’s decision to accede to reality in Iraq.
After all, it is this president who has presided over a more muscular, more aggressive prosecution of the “war on terror” than either his predecessor, or the opposition party in Washington could every have imagined.
Obama is, after all, the president who presided over the killing of Osama bin Laden.
WATCH THEGRIO’S GOLDIE TAYLOR ON MSNBC DISCUSS OBAMA ENDING THE IRAQ WAR
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It was the Obama administration that has done the most lethal damage to al-Qaida, including killing American-born militant Anwar Al-Awlaki.
It was under Obama’s watch that the Arab spring has led to the toppling of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and now in Libya, along with uprisings in Yemen and Syria, which threaten to upend the Muslim and Arab world. .
And while al-Qaida’s presence in Afghanistan and its reach throughout parts of the Muslim world posed a real threat to America’s national security, Iraq never did. Ending our military adventure there is therefore fitting, not just for Iraqis who want to determine their own future, but for members of the U.S. military, who now are free to return home to start rebuilding theirs.
Unlike the premature speech that George W. Bush gave on an aircraft carrier, just months into the U.S. invasion of Iraq, this truly is “mission accomplished.”