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Published:January 19th, 2006 11:49 EST

In For the Long Haul

By Bruce H.G. Calder (Editor)

“Brave Sir Robin ran away / Bravely ran away away / When danger reared it's ugly head / He bravely turned his tail and fled. / Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about / And gallantly he chickened out. / Bravely taking to his feet, / He beat a very brave retreat / Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

Let’s not sugarcoat this. Even though the Iraq war is over, the shooting and the dying continues, claiming the lives of over 2000 American soldiers-- with more to come. Add to that the 60+ journalists and several hundred non-Iraqi civilians who have been killed, as well as 15,000 Americans who have been wounded, many seriously. Of course, one should not forget the innocent Iraqi dead, estimated at 10,000 to over 100,000, depending upon who you listen to. The United States has spent over $200 billion on the war, which could conceivably cost $600 billion by 2010, the economic effects of which will linger for decades. 

Faced with these statistics, it’s hardly surprising that opposition to the war within the United States is growing. Washington politicians (including John Kerry) who couldn’t give President Bush authority to wage war in Iraq fast enough (after being on the wrong side in 1991) are now talking about getting Americans out-- A.S.A.P.

Kerry’s plan calls for the removal of 20,000 soldiers by January 1, 2006, to start. Opposition to the war has gone mainstream, big time.

Obviously, the effort and cost of this adventure was severely-- let’s make that disastrously-- underestimated; but the simple truth is that the United States of America has toppled a government and therefore now has a responsibility to ensure that stability is restored, just as they did in Germany and Japan after World War II. I’m really sorry that this can’t be done in 22 minutes, not including commercials.

Today, in Iraq, there are still suicide bombings, running gun battles, and occasionally one of Saddam Hussein’s lawyers gets knocked off. Does this sound like a country that needs FEWER soldiers? The people blowing up men, women, and children today would be the same people taking power tomorrow if America leaves too soon. (Obviously they won’t literally be the same people, but you know what I mean.) Just what the world needs: another national officially cheering when infidel children are blown up, and openly calling for the destruction of other countries (ie. Israel.)

In this dangerous world, when the world’s only super power says it’s going to do something, it darn well better do it. People are risking their lives in Iraq on the promise that The United States will be true to its word… this time. Millions of people voted in Iraqi elections, knowing full well that they might be murdered while waiting in line. If America walks away before Iraq can provide security for it’s own people, why should the people of Iraq, or anybody anywhere else for that matter, ever trust the US again?

“Oh, but Iraq is the new Vietnam”, some critics whine.

Any comparison of Iraq to Vietnam is, give me a second while I find the right word... stupid. Iraq has a functioning government with a recently ratified constitution granting freedom the area hasn’t seen since… well…ever! Iraqis are beginning to take control of policing and many military operations. Municipal governments are being formed all over the country, and with over 170 independent newspapers in print, freedom of speech is alive and well. As an added bonus, innocent people are no longer being gassed by their own government, and Iraq no longer supports terrorists elsewhere. For example, Saddam Hussein is no longer giving $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Maybe George Bush shouldn’t have taken out Saddam Hussein’s regime, but now that the deed is done, there are basically only two choices. Down the path of premature withdrawal, in which there is certain anarchy (you think there’s anarchy in Iraq today? well you haven’t seen anarchy!), followed by the ascension of a dictatorial regime that would make Saddam’s look like a knitting club, thumbing its nose at the United States and doing whatever it could to destroy it and its allies. The other road holds the promise of an Arab democracy, which, as it becomes a real economic power, with wealth more fairly distributed among its citizens, could be a shining example to the rest of the Arab world of a better way. Wishful thinking? You bet. Something worth fighting for? Absolutely. It’s a no-brainer.

The United States has much to be embarrassed about when it comes to Iraq; but if Iraq is abandoned, not only will this be yet another broken promise in a long line of broken promises, it won’t be too long before another President will have to go back in and start all over again from scratch.