Okay, time to get outta Dodge. We've been given the perfect deus ex machina to get out of Iraq by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who is understandably ticked off by the latest reports of American troops killing Iraqi civilians at Haditha, and has stated that violence against civilians has become a “daily phenomenon” by American-led troops who “do not respect the Iraqi people.”
I admit that I come to this cut-and-run strategy belatedly, being more in the We-Broke-It-We-Fix-It school of thought. But it's now clear even to dreamers like me that we are a huge part of the problem and not the solution. Arguably we always were the problem, but once the disastrous course was set (and we won't cover that old ground here -- but neither will we ever forget) I reluctantly bought into the idea that we couldn't abandon all the Iraqi people whose lives we had upended. I know some capital P patriot is going to yammer at me about how we toppled a ruthless dictator who gassed his own people, and yes we did, but now we're doing a lot of the killing of his own people for him, while he sits in a box being tried for crimes against civilians that are starting to sound sickeningly familiar.
And who, other than Don Rumsfeld, can say with a straight face that Iraq is a better place today? The New York Times reports that in the last 10 months the state has issued new passports to 1.85 million Iraqis, a quarter of the country's estimated middle-class, which right there ought to tell us something about how much better it really is.
Back when, I didn't see how we could justify so much loss of life on either side, only to pull out and leave a maelstrom of warring factions behind. So it seemed to me we needed to stay there to - prevent violence so that democracy could take root? Well, even that didn't really make sense to me, because in a democracy the majority rules, and in Iraq that's the Shiites, and whole militias of them aren't exactly immersed in democratic traditions, such as equal rights for women, just for starters. Shouldn't someone in Bush-world have been thinking about this beforehand? Ditto in Palestine?
In any case that's not happening, the violence prevention thing, and even though there are thousands of American troops there who are trying their darndest to do the right thing, (and a sorry few who apparently aren't) no one seems to know what the right thing is anymore. It isn't exactly paintball over there, with one side in shirts and the other in skins. And whatever happened to all those schools and hospitals our soldiers were building? The only thing that's going full steam ahead seems to be the $1 billion Disneyworld-like American Embassy in Baghdad.
But back to the beleaguered, can't-win troops. They were another reason I felt we needed to stay. That John Kerry line about Vietnam -- being the last man to die for a mistake --stuck with me. If you've lost your mate or your child - or your limb or your mind -- to this never-should-have-been war, how do you feel when we walk away from the chaos we've created? In some pipe dream I held out for a turnaround -- a moderate parliament taking control or some semblance of order -- so that our troops who come home, and the families of those who don't, could feel their sacrifice was worth something.
But the killings at Haditha and Mr. Maliki's justified rage have stamped out that little puff of hope. There is nothing we can do now but come home and apologize to the world. The arrogant Bush spin team can go to work and cook up any scenario they like, maybe “I always said I wasn't in the business of nation building.” I don't care anymore what they say to cover their sorry tails, as no one believes them anyway.
We have failed miserably and turned the world against us in the process, so come on home, soldier. This one is over.
Susan Lenfestey is a Minneapolis writer. She can be reached at SooLen@aol.com. She blogs at www.clotheslineblog.com