"Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. ... The vitality of the U.S. economy and the economies of much of the world depend on the oil that comes from the Persian Gulf."
With these statements, Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, recently came out against the war in Iraq. The speech ran 5,644 words, with frequent mention of the importance of Middle Eastern oil.
Nowhere in the speech was there any mention of the rights and interests of the Iraqi people. Without this recognition of the results our actions have had on the lives of Iraqis, we will continue to find ourselves haunted by the aftermath of actions based on immoral decisions.
I applaud and wholeheartedly agree with the reasons given by Senator Lugar and others for leaving Iraq - those of national interest. But you would think that Iraqi interests would deserve a mention. This war has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the wounding and traumatizing of millions of Iraqis. More than 4 million refugees - half of them children - have been forced to leave their homes. Unemployment is over 50 percent.
The health care infrastructure is destroyed; more than 2,000 physicians have been killed, and many thousands more have fled the country. Iraqi girls as young as 12 have resorted to prostitution in their desperation to support their families. The education system also has been destroyed. Yet many of our politicians, fearful of being labeled as soft on defense, resort to blaming the Iraqis because they have not met our "benchmarks."
The reports of death and destruction in Iraq have become so routine that major media outlets now relegate the deaths of dozens of Iraqis to minor coverage; meanwhile, Paris Hilton recently got almost two hours of coverage on CNN in a single evening.
Most Americans are moral and fair, once we know the facts. If the American people were to see and feel the pain and suffering of individual Iraqis, I am certain the moral outrage about what is happening in Iraq would be intense. The troops would be home sooner rather than later. But our leaders - Republicans and Democrats - first must know the real pain and suffering of the Iraqi people.
Individual Americans donate billions of dollars to total strangers in a devastated area or because of the HIV/AIDS scourge. Americans fly all over the world to adopt orphans. Our people are good, but our government is no longer as good as its people. We now know that the facts about Iraq as given to us before the war by the president and his advisers were not true. Now it is up to our legislators to right this wrong perpetrated on the American - and Iraqi - people.
Legislative leaders such as Senator Lugar need to demonstrate leadership by informing the American people that our moral compass is working and that we should leave Iraq not simply because it is in our interests, but because it is the right thing to do. We will only begin to find peace in this region when our strength is shown in our moral and human acts, not just in our military might.
We can begin by telling the American people that we will leave Iraq in an orderly and safe manner and by apologizing to the Iraqi people for the havoc we have wreaked.
Adil E. Shamoo, who was born and raised in Baghdad, is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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