Bring Home the Troops
By Jamie McKenzie
Hundreds of thousands arrived in Washington on January 27 to call for an end to the US occupation of Iraq. A consistent theme running throughout the day was supporting our troops by bringing them home while turning Iraq over to its own people.
Veterans of the Iraq War and family members who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq spoke of their sadness and anger over the false messages and bungling Iraq policies of the President and his team.
Many consider the invasion illegal as well as ill-considered. The Neocons and the President have played out a global fantasy that has proven to be one of the greatest failures in American history. Marked by mismanagement, wrong-minded strategy and a fundamental misunderstanding of the cultures of the region, the Iraq experiment has grown into a raging civil war with US forces caught dangerously in the middle. To leave them in such an untenable position is the opposite of supporting them. The President now seems intent on delaying an exit until someone else can clean up his mess.
The Nation Builder and Decider
A President who ran for office criticizing the very notion of "nation building" has devoted most of his first six years trying to grow democracy in a land where there was little readiness.
In the 2000 debate with Al Gore, he criticized Gore for nation building:
- I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.
Would that he had honored his words.
He has shown no aptitude for such efforts, and while he and his team have mangled the attempt, countless thousands have been killed or wounded. The costs of his blundering are enormous in human loss as well as lost opportunities here at home.
The Iraq Study Commission was very critical of efforts to build a criminal justice and police system, for example, stating that they were badly executed. Note January 31 article by LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer, "U.S. may have botched training of Iraqis."
- The U.S. erred by first assigning the task of shaping the judicial system in a largely lawless country to the State Department and private contractors who "did not have the expertise or the manpower to get the job done," Hamilton and Meese said in testimony obtained by The Associated Press.
In 2004, the mission was assigned to the Defense Department, which devoted more money to the task. But department officials also were insufficiently trained for the job, Hamilton and Meese said.
While the 2006 election showed the American public opposed to continuing the war, the President has ignored the voice of the people while proposing an escalation of the war and an increase in troop strength. His actions show a profound disrespect for the very democratic principles he claims to be exporting to Iraq. He claims to be the Decider, but he is clinging to a catastrophic policy like a drowning man.
His obstinate refusal to shift direction in Iraq is criminal.
- At least 3,065 American military personnel have been killed and at least 22,834 have been wounded since the start of the war in March 2003, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site that tracks Department of Defense numbers. The United Nations has estimated that at least 35,000 Iraqis have been killed each year since the war started. (Source: NY Times)
The Damage to Schools and Children
The cost of the war in human terms extends beyond the injuries and deaths in Iraq to severe losses on the home front.
This President has gambled the national treasury on Iraq while granting tax cuts to the rich. Building the national debt at an alarming rate, he has mortgaged our granchildren's future in order to play out his global fantasies.
Instead of investing in domestic policies that would bring the American Dream to life, this President has allowed the rich to get richer while the poor suffer. The nation staggers from serious issues of poverty, hunger and homelessness.
In his budget proposals for fiscal 2007, the President proposed cuts in education and health care while proposing record increases in defense spending, the war in Iraq and homeland security. For a detailed description go to NPR analysis.
- The president's 2007 budget calls for $3.5 billion in Department of Education cuts. That's nearly a 4 percent decrease in funding compared to last year. Forty-two education programs are targeted for elimination. The biggest include arts education, vocational education, parent resource centers, the drug-free schools program and education technology grants. (Discretionary spending on education would drop from $57.5 billion to $54.4 billion -- a drop of $3.1 billion, or 5.5 percent, from a year ago).
The report went on to point out that federal spending for education had been held flat for the previous two budgets after a 40% increase since 2001. What few seem to appreciate is the proportion of those increases that were required to meet NCLB mandates, many of which focus on testing and accountability rather than capacity building.
It is time we bring home the troops and do some nation building right here in the good old USA.