Why should American soldiers fight when the Iraqi government is on a month-long vacation? | NevadaAppeal.com
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Why should American soldiers fight when the Iraqi government is on a month-long vacation?

Guy Farmer

While American servicemen and women continue to fight and die in Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament – representing the people our troops are fighting and dying for – has decided to take a month-long summer vacation. This is an outrageous development in an increasingly indefensible war and I believe we should begin a phased withdrawal of our troops on an unannounced timetable. Enough is enough!

One of America’s most respected Iraq watchers, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, summed up the situation accurately last week when he wrote the following: “I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were the parent of a soldier in Iraq and had just read that the Iraqi Parliament decided to go on vacation in August because, as White House spokesman Tony Snow explained, ‘It’s really hot in Baghdad.'” Yes, it’s really hot in Baghdad these days and even hotter for the American soldiers who are protecting the lives of those same politicians while wearing full body armor in 130-degree heat.

“I’ve been in Baghdad in the summer and it’s really hot,” Friedman wrote. “But you know what? It’s a lot hotter when you’re in a U.S. military uniform, carrying a rifle and a backpack, sweltering under a steel helmet and worrying that a bomb can be thrown at you from any direction.” And he added, “I think it’s a travesty for the Bush White House to excuse it (the parliamentary vacation) with a Baghdad weather report…” So do I and that’s why I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that the best way to support our troops is to start bringing them home.

Having opposed President Bush’s Iraqi misadventure right from the beginning – even before “multinational” (American, that is) – troops invaded that unfortunate country, I think it’s time to wind down the president’s bloody war, which has reached a point where the costs in American lives and treasure far outweigh the alleged benefits. Let’s face it, our brave young men and women are trapped in the middle of a deadly civil war between extremist religious factions in a country that’s coming apart at the seams.

While President Bush and his diminishing band of supporters continue to call for “victory” in Iraq, public opinion and influential members of Congress from both major parties have turned against the war for very good reasons. The president’s repeated assertions of victory and progress, going all the way back to that shameful “mission accomplished” photo op, remind me of nothing so much as the boy who cried wolf. Although I don’t agree with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the war is “lost,” I simply don’t believe it’s worth winning at this point. The cost is too high and we should turn our attention to the real battle: The War on Terror.

The current war plan drawn up by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker assumes that a large-scale U.S. military presence will be necessary for at least two more years. This after the president assured us that a short-term troop surge would turn the tide in Iraq. By now, however, it’s clear that the surge is falling far short of its objectives while Bush calls for an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops in Iraq.

According to the left-leaning New York Times, the Petraeus/Crocker plan “ignores the fact that the volunteer Army cannot sustain a prolonged escalation (in Iraq) without grievous losses in quality, readiness and morale. Even more unrealistically, the plan assumes that with two more years of an American blank check, Iraqi politicians will somehow decide to take responsibility for their political future – something they’ve refused to do for the last four years.” In this case, I believe the Times’ analysis of the situation in Iraq is timely, honest and accurate.

“Prolonging the war for another two years will not bring victory,” the Times concluded. “It will mean more lives lost, more damage to America’s international standing and fewer resources to fight the real fight against terrorists.” Amen!

When knowledgeable, moderate GOP senators like Richard Lugar of Indiana, John Warner of Virginia and Pete Domenici of New Mexico tell the president that it’s time to cut his losses, Bush should listen to them and change his strategy. Instead, he plunges blindly forward in a delusional and unrealistic state of denial about what is really happening in Iraq. “We can’t continue to ask our troops to sacrifice indefinitely,” Domenici said recently, “while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress.” A recent U.S. government report determined that the Iraqis had failed to make satisfactory progress on 10 of 18 reasonable “benchmarks.” That’s a grade of 45, failing by any measure.

Instead of ignoring the highly touted Baker/Hamilton Report, Bush should have followed its main recommendations by developing a viable exit strategy and turning more responsibility over to the Iraqis. Instead, the very people we’re supposed to be saving from international terrorism continue to squabble among themselves and take summer vacations while our troops fight and die for them, which doesn’t make any sense in a rational world.

• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.