Earlier this week General David Petraeus, and Ryan Crocker, our Ambassador to Iraq, appeared before Congress, and during the proceedings Russ Feingold, Wisconsin’s United States Senator, offered perhaps the strongest rebuke of the Petraeus-Crocker spin:
“I hope you won’t take it personally when I say that I wish we were also hearing today from those who could help us look at Iraq from a broader perspective. The participation at this hearing of those charged with regional and global responsibilities would have given us the chance to discuss how the war in Iraq is undermining our national security. It might have helped us answer the most important question we face – not ‘are we winning or losing in Iraq?’ but ‘are we winning or losing in the global fight against al Qaeda?'”
Feingold went on to say he was “disappointed” General Petraeus was calling for a halt to troop reductions in Iraq, noting:
[T]he presence of about 140,000 troops in Iraq will exacerbate the conflict, not stabilize it, and it will certainly not contribute to our overall national security. Some have suggested that we should stay in Iraq until reconciliation occurs. They have it backwards — our departure is likely to force factions to the negotiating table in an attempt to finally create a viable power-sharing agreement.
If we redeploy, Iraq will no longer be the “‘cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world,” as the Intelligence Community so clearly stated. Iran, as well as Turkey, Syria, and other regional actors, will have to decide if Iraqi instability is really in their interests once we are no longer on the hook. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will be able to adequately address what must be our top priority – the threat posed by al Qaeda around the globe, and particularly its safe haven in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Nothing could be clearer than the need to refocus all our instruments of national power to combat this threat.
The sentence I emphasized neatly sums up my problems with the continued presence of American troops in Iraq, namely the fact that al Qaeda was largely nonexistent in Iraq prior to our invasion and subsequent toppling of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Al Qaeda in Iraq is largely a creation of our military’s continued presence in Iraq long after Saddam Hussein was brought to justice and punished for the crimes he committed against his people, and as Senator Feingold noted, our continued presence in Iraq only serves as a continued motivation for jihadists to come join the fight against what they perceive to be the American occupation of Iraq. Further, the continued presence of our military forces in Iraq will only serve to weaken our ability to wage an effective effort to root out and eliminate terrorism across the globe.
And finally – as if mindful of the inevitable critics who would no doubt say leaving Iraq is tantamount to abandoning that country – Feingold added:
Redeployment does not mean abandoning Iraq. We must work for a peaceful outcome in that country. But if we continue to leave our military caught up in the sectarian divisions that consume Iraq, we will be doing so at grave risk to Iraq’s progress, the region’s stability, and our own national security.
Just remember that…redeployment does not mean abandonment.
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