On Friday, President Obama announced that all U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq will “definitely be home for the holidays.” What did he mean by this? Well, the war in Iraq is over and it’s time for the 45,000 servicemen and servicewomen still there to come home.
“I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year,” Obama said in a press conference. “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”
However, what precipitated the end of the war in Iraq is an issue of debate. Some believe it was strictly Obama’s doing, while others believe it was solely the decision of Iraqi leadership.
As it turns out, the most probable reason for the end of the war was Iraq’s refusal to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts following the expiration of the current occupation agreement. In other words, if we were to maintain a presence in Iraq beyond what was previously negotiated by the Bush Administration, our troops would be subject to Iraqi law if they stepped out of line.
This was, of course, a deal-breaker.
So, the fact that Obama is obliquely taking credit for the end of the war is a bit disingenuous. Especially since it was, as mentioned, the Bush Administration’s agreement to end the occupation by 2012. Even Secretary of Defense Hillary Clinton acknowledged this fact. She told Chris Wallace,
“President Obama said that combat troops would leave Iraq by the end of this year. But before he ever said that, the Bush administration also committed to withdrawing all troops by the end of this year. So you have a bipartisan commitment, and that was viewed as appropriate,” she said.
Despite the fact that it was a bi-paritisan effort, politicians on the right are being critical of the way in which Obama has handled the situation.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also appeared on Fox News Sunday. He told Chris Wallace, “Not being able to close the deal in Iraq [negotiate an extension of U.S. troops] is a very serious mistake. Celebrating leaving with no troops behind is a serious mistake,” he said.
Sen. Graham believes the withdrawal is ill conceived and leaves the Iraqi people vulnerable to not only extremists living within the country, but to the meddling influence of nations like Iran. As he result, Graham believes the premature troop withdrawal puts America’s long-term security objectives in jeopardy.
“Iraqis have no air force. They have no intelligence-gathering capability. They need counter-terrorism assistance. There are missions only we can do. The [U.S.] military commander said we needed 15,000 to 18,000 [troops in Iraq]. We have none [after this year]. It was the Obama administration’s job to end this well. They failed,” Graham said.
Should we have made an arrangement to keep 15,000 to 18,000 troops in Iraq?
While Denis McDonough, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, and others have argued that “these guys [Iraqi forces] are ready; these guys are capable; these guys are proven; importantly, they’re proven because they’ve been tested in a lot of the kinds of threats that they’re going to see going forward,” the truth is that only time will tell.
Overall though, the war in Iraq was costly and will forever cast a shadow. More than 4,400 American troops have been killed since the start of the war back in March 2003. And the total bill for the war was approximately $1 trillion.
The question has been asked, was it all worth it? For this question, one should defer to the troops, who have provided an answer in a recent survey.