- The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended some years ago.
In Iraq, the war ended with the fall of Saddam Hussein's government; in
Afghanistan, with the fall of the Taliban government. What's been happening
since is occupation and resistance to occupation.
- It's always helpful to call things by the right name.
One of the ways using the wrong word can trip us is illustrated by John
McCain's campaign theme. We have to win the war in Iraq, he keeps saying.
Ending a war implies either winning or losing. No such baggage is attached
to an occupation. You can end an occupation without either winning or losing.
You just withdraw your troops.
- The fact that what is going on in Iraq is an occupation
is proven by the nature of the conflicts. They are between factions of
Iraqis. Our guys are caught in the crossfire or killed by Iraqis who oppose
our presence. There are no large-scale attacks directed against us.
- Those who want to continue the occupation paint a horrific
picture of what they claim will happen if we withdraw a massive civil
war, genocide or a regional war. There is no hard evidence to support any
of those suppositions. But even if they happen, they need not concern us.
Lots of factions in different parts of the world decide to kill each other
from time to time, and we don't interfere. As long as there are no Americans
to get caught in the crossfire, let the Iraqis have their civil war if
that's what they want.
- On the other hand, there's never been civil war in Iraq.
There were rebellions against the Baathist government and, before that,
against the British-sponsored governments, but before our occupation, Sunnis
and Shia intermarried and lived side by side. There were always Christians
in Iraq and, until the state of Israel was created, Jews. That was, in
fact, true throughout the Middle East.
- As for al-Qaeda, it has been virtually wiped out in Iraq
not by us, but by Sunni tribesmen who turned against it because of
its murderous fanaticism. McCain keeps confusing al-Qaeda with Shia and
trying to link it to Iran, but al-Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni group
way outside the mainstream of Islam. Most of its members are Saudis or
Egyptians. It was never in Iraq until our war and occupation gave it an
excuse to come in. It's never been in Iran. For American politicians to
suppose that without us it would thrive and grow in Iraq is just proof
of their ignorance.
- Our presence in Iraq is the only thing that made al-Qaeda
viable. Our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are the principal selling
points in al-Qaeda propaganda. We have no interests, strategic or otherwise,
in either country. The last thing al-Qaeda wants is for us to withdraw,
which is why it should be the first thing we do.
- Whatever someone imagines we gain by staying in Iraq
and Afghanistan is far outweighed by what we are losing. We are losing
lives in dribs and drabs, and we are losing treasure at an alarming rate.
We have severe internal problems that our military presence in the Middle
East aggravates. Our military is on the verge of being broken. Some Nobel
laureates estimate the war will end up costing us $3 trillion. Well, plain
and simple, we can't afford it.
- We should never go to war unless there are tangible,
identifiable benefits for the American people for doing so. Try to think
of a benefit we have gained from Iraq or Afghanistan. There are none. We
deposed two governments that were not attacking us or threatening to attack
us, and we let get away the private terrorist group that had attacked us.
It does not matter that they were bad governments. There are lots of bad
governments in this world. The only bad government we have an obligation
to change is the one in Washington, D.C.
- If we don't change direction in this country, we're going
to end up impoverished and bankrupt, and you know what? Iraq and Afghanistan
will still be the messes they are today.
- Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting
on everything from sports to politics. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign
staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several
states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for
the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column
three times a week for King Features, which is carried on Antiwar.com.
Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.