It‘s been two years since Americans troops departed Iraqwrites Benny Huang who served a tour in Iraq
and the nation is still burning. The yearly death toll has been calculated and it’s nothing short of horrifying. In total, 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces lost their lives in 2013, making it the most violent in five years.
The nearly nine year war our military fought in Iraq is now fading away in our national rear-view mirror. Our boys and girls are no longer in that oily third world hell hole and we’re glad for it. Most of us, I suspect, would rather not ponder too long a war that so deeply divided this nation. So we just don’t talk about it.
Though Americans have shifted their attention away from Iraq, the country is still roiling with car bombs and drive-by shootings. Our news media no longer covers it in horrific detail but it’s still happening.
At the risk of sounding insensitive or smug, there’s something I have to get off of my chest: I told you so.
Removing American soldiers from the equation did nothing to reduce violence. To the contrary, the infusion of troops during the surge was what brought violence down to manageable levels. Since leaving, those numbers have crept up again.
The conventional wisdom concerning the insurgency in Iraq was that it would dry up as soon as our troops left. The insurgents were, after all, merely fighting to evict foreign occupiers from their homeland.
There are a number of problems with this analysis. The first is that the Iraqi insurgency wasn’t entirely Iraqi by nationality. Although it was impossible to determine the exact proportion of foreign fighters, there were indicators. Nearly all of al-Qaeda’s top leadership in Iraq was non-Iraqi, including the Egyptian kingpin Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Ninety percent of suicide bombers were non-Iraqi. This was not an entirely homegrown movement designed to get foreign invaders out of “their” country.
… Apparently our presence was not the only reason they were fighting. If that were the case there would be no more bloodshed in Iraq two years after final American withdrawal.
The facile thinking of eight years ago predicted peace in Iraq as soon as coalition forces departed. The party line was that America brought war to Iraq and war would continue until America decided to end it. The faster we came home the faster the bleeding would stop.
William Pfaff, writing at the Korea Herald, summed up that school of thought particularly well. “The insurgents are fighting because of the occupation, and the occupation forces are fighting because there is resistance.” … Fred Kaplan, liberal puke at Slate Magazine, the preferred internet news source of liberal pukes everywhere, sounded a similar sentiment. …
The occupation is gone. What are they “insurging” against now? Could it be that achieving the first step in their plan—expelling the coalition—only emboldened them to push on toward their ultimate goals?
No single concept animated the anti-Iraq War movement more than the assumption that our presence is what made Iraq a hostile place. This assumption framed the entire debate. Those who wanted to beat a hasty retreat counted themselves as peaceniks while portraying their opponents as war-mongers. They seemed incapable of understanding that we all wanted peace. Simply leaving however, was no guarantee that peace would automatically bloom across Iraq.
Time has demonstrated that the insurgency did not merely exist to battle us. Our fighting men and women have gone home and there is still no peace to be found between the Tigris and the Euphrates. I could have predicted that eight years ago. I did predict it eight years ago, in fact. I knew that all things come to an end, even occupations. One day the coalition would leave and the people they were trying to counter would just keep on fighting. Nothing would change in Iraq unless we defeated those forces, which we obviously failed to do.
In that regard, I was prescient. But in another way, I was naïve in my expectations. I mistakenly believed that once people saw the folly of the anti-Iraq War’s central premise—that the insurgency only existed because our troops were there—that they would entertain earnest second thoughts. People might begin to understand that their friends and neighbors who argued in favor of the Iraq War were not doing so because they hated peace or anything as juvenile as that. Who hates peace? They argued in favor of the Iraq War because defeating the bad guys was the best way to achieve peace.
In the end, we handed the baton to the Iraqis, of which I am glad. It’s their fight now. Let’s not forget, however, that a fight still exists even in the absence of a foreign occupation.