August 28, 2005

The Iraq War: Why Stay?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:09 pm

As debate about the Iraq War grows, in large part fueled by Cindy Sheehan’s vigil and the resulting counter-protest, I thought I should revisit my thoughts on the war. And by revisit, I really mean rethink.

I would like to be able to say that I have been 100% opposed to the Iraq War from the beginning. After all, if Rick Santorum can rewrite history to claim that he has raised concerns about the war in the past, why can’t I do a bit of a rewrite myself? Alas, it’s that old intellectual honesty thing. That, and the fact that I’m on the record last year as being “ambivalent” about the war, not opposed to it.

During the debate in Congress on the war, I still remember clearly Senator Byrd saying something along the lines of “Why now? What’s the rush? Why, after living with Saddam Hussein in power all these years do we have to invade Iraq now?” His reservations rang true for me then, and even truer now. After all, one of the criteria for a just war is that it is a last resort, a test this war clearly failed. (Father Jake has a post at the Christian Alliance for Progress that lays out all the ways this war falls short of a just war.)

But as we went to war, I held out the hope that something good would come of it. It was wrong to go to war, but that didn’t mean that nothing good could result, or so I thought. My “ambivalence” was born of my hope that at least the Iraqi people would be freed from the oppression they had suffered during Saddam’s rule. This could be the “just cause” required of a just war. The toppling of the Saddam statues and the election in January encouraged me in my hope.

By June, it became clear to me and most of the country that the war was a tragic mistake. Nothing good was going to come from the war. My “just cause” had turned into a hopeless cause. Still, I felt that an immediate withdrawal was out of the question; having created this mess, I thought we had a moral responsibility to clean it up.

So here we are in late August, and the key question has become: are we doing more harm than good by staying? Is our presence inflaming violence that is costing Iraqi and American lives that could be saved by our withdrawal? Is the most moral act we could take at this point to leave the mess we’ve created to the Iraqis? Perhaps we are like the clumsy co-worker who, having spilled coffee on your shirt, insists on helping you clean it off, only making it worse.

Except we aren’t talking about a dry cleaning bill here, we’re talking about thousands of human lives.

This is the case that Bush needs to make to the American people. Most of us now see that starting this war was immoral and pointless. Bush spends so much time trying to justify that original mistake that he’s not telling me what I want to know: why stay? Cindy Sheehan is a wonderful Christian voice speaking truth to power. But is she right to demand our immediate withdrawal? I just want to hear a realistic assessment from the Bush administration on whether we are helping, rather than hurting, Iraq.

I’m not holding my breath.


  1. I don’t think there are any easy answers to this, and that is part of George W Bush’s problem. He seems to be incapable of looking in depth at any issue.

    Should we pull our troops? Even though I was fully opposed to the war from the beginning, I also think we have a responsibility to Iraq now that we are there. I’m not convinced that an immediate withdrawal would be beneficial to the Iraqi people, but I’m not convinced that it wouldn’t, either.

    Would a U.S. withdrawal take away the insurgents’ reason for fighting? Or would it give them encouragement to try to topple the new Iraqi government? Like you, I would like to hear a realistic assessment from the Bush administration. Like you, I’m not holding my breath.

    Comment by Bruce — August 30, 2005 @ 5:53 am

  2. You are so right that the answer to this is not clear. This is a lot of
    people’s lives at stake not just our political win/lose equation. I wish
    people from all sides were being more sober and less noisy.

    Comment by Rebecca — August 30, 2005 @ 6:25 am

  3. Ditto Bruce’s comment, though I tend to be on the side of “if we’re there for the wrong reasons, we should get out now and start doing things for the right reasons” — but couldn’t Bush at least publish an exit strategy that’s less vague than “we’ll stand down as soon as the Iraqis stand up” – Geesh!

    Comment by Chris — August 30, 2005 @ 7:16 am

  4. Bob writes:

    Most of us now see that starting this war was immoral and pointless. Bush spends so much time trying to justify that original mistake that he’s not telling me what I want to know: why stay? Cindy Sheehan is a wonderful Christian voice speaking truth to power. But is she right to demand our immediate withdrawal?”

    No, it is not right to leave now. Further, I wonder if it has ever occurred
    to those who frequent this site that had France, Germany and Russia supported
    the U.S. in the beginning, before we went to war in Iraq, the war might not
    have been necessary to fight. Because of their non-support Saddam found
    encouragement that he would be protected at the UN and would not have to comply
    with the resolutions confirmed there.

    Can any of you actually believe that less lives would be lost in Iraq if the
    U.S. were to pull out tomorrow? There would be a massacre. There would be
    civil war and the terrorists would ultimately win and likely implement Islamic
    sharia law there. Do any of you believe that would be more humane than
    finishing the mission? Further, President Bush has given the reason we need
    to stay in Iraq: TO FINISH THE MISSION. He has been the most resolved,
    strong and consistent President in recent history, why do you believe the
    mission has changed? We are working to accomplish the same mission that we
    started. Leaving a people behind in the dust without aiding them in bringing
    their infrastucture back up to par, helping them to train their own military
    capable of defending their elected government and allowing them the time
    necessary to stabilize the region out of our own personal selfishness is not
    the answer.

    Comment by Jacke — September 1, 2005 @ 10:36 am

  5. I meant to respond to your remark about Cindy Sheehan being “a wonderful
    Christian voice speaking truth to power”? Here are some excerpts of a blog
    she wrote on Aug. 27, 2005, read it and see if you still think this woman,
    who has called our President the biggest terrorist in the world, is a
    “wonderful Christian voice”:

    “…I have been silent on the Gold Star Moms who still support this man and his war by saying that they deserve the right to their opinions because they are in as much pain as I am….

    … I am starting to lose a little compassion for them. I know they have been as brainwashed as the rest of America, but they know the pain and heartache and they should not wish it on another. However, I still feel their pain so acutely and pray for these ‘continue the murder and mayhem’ moms to see the light….”

    Comment by Jacke — September 1, 2005 @ 10:43 am

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