Obama on Iraq: The Un-President Leaves an Uncertain Future to Iraqis

Posted on September 1, 2010


No one but an Un-President could deliver up such an unsatisfactory sign off to our bloody involvement in Iraq and to the support of the people there whose lives we had touched.

“The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people,” he said. “We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. …. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibilities.

“Now, it’s time to turn the page.”

Obama said Americans who served in Iraq “completed every mission they were given.” [CNN]

When Nixon  felt he had achieved “peace with honor” in Viet Nam, we ended that “conflict” by agreement and left the South Vietnamese to their own devices.  In his remarks at the time, the “conflict” had morphed into a “war.”

Now that we have achieved an honorable agreement, let us be proud that America did not settle for a peace that would have betrayed our allies, that would have abandoned our prisoners of war, or that would have ended the war for us but would have continued the war for the 50 million people of Indochina. Let us be proud of the 2 1/2 million young Americans who served in Vietnam, who served with honor and distinction in one of the most selfless enterprises in the history of nations. And let us be proud of those who sacrificed, who gave their lives so that the people of South Vietnam might live in freedom and so that the world might live in peace.

In particular, I would like to say a word to some of the bravest people I have ever met-the wives, the children, the families of our prisoners of war and the missing in action. When others called on us to settle on any terms, you had the courage to stand for the right kind of peace so that those who died and those who suffered would not have died and suffered in vain, and so that, where this generation knew war, the next generation would know peace. Nothing means more to me at this moment than the fact that your long vigil is coming to an end.

Just yesterday, a great American, who once occupied this office, died. In his life President [Lyndon B.] Johnson endured the vilification of those who sought to portray him as a man of war. But there was nothing he cared about more deeply than achieving a lasting peace in the world. [watergateinfo.com]

For his part, if old LBJ talked in terms of the “domino theory” in his remarks below, but what he said about the nature and spread of conflict in Southeast Asia now speaks to matters beyond:

We are also there [in Viet Nam] because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a minute that retreat from Viet-Nam would bring an end to the conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next. We must say in Southeast Asia-as we did in Europe-in the words of the Bible: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.”

There are those who say that all our effort there will be futile-that China’s power is such that it is bound to dominate all southeast Asia. But there is no end to that argument until all of the nations of Asia are swallowed up. [famousquotes]

But now, with no clear, shared insight into what the current conditions on the ground in Iraq portend, we are turning once again to Afghanistan and focusing on the Peace Process without a sense of an overall direction beyond beating Iran at its game.  Perhaps all we can do is “turn the page” but to tell that to troops on the front line is like giving them a weak handshake and kissing them goodbye. And what of the 50,000 left behind.  It makes them sound expendable.

Here as in In Viet Nam, we hoped that the beacon of democracy would last. But America’s commitments don’t last and so why would their “gift” of democracy.  Ask the South Vietnamese, ask the Kurds, ask the Iraqi government.

We did not learn the lessons of Korea before Viet Nam, we thought we could do better than France there.  We knew Saddam was capable of keeping Iran in place yet we removed him.  We thought we could do better than the Russians in Afghanistan and so we rushed in after 9/11 in a frenzied attempt to find an elusive agent of terror.

America needs to learn to balance life under a military-industrial complex with the possibility of life in a peacetime economy.  America needs to learn from the history of past conflicts in an area they are considering engaging in conflict before engaging the enemy there.

Above all, America needs a President who is a forceful and fearless leader and we don’t have that.  We just have a page turning, enigmatic “outsider” incapable of healing but masterful at sewing the seeds of doubt and division.  In turning to the business of domestic issues that require attention, we  should ask him, “did we have to wait for the end of a war to take it on?”  It appeared from day one your focus was domestic issues.” The war has always been an afterthought with Obama.  But now it is imperative that he get it off his desk for the November elections.  There will always be conflict. You need to balance conflict abroad with domestic issues not turn from one to the other.  What we have is an unbalanced President.