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Opposing view: Bring the troops home

July 30, 2009
Opinion Piece

The fatal flaw in President Bush's "surge strategy" is that his militaristic policy in Iraq has minimized American influence and destabilized the entire region.

He has turned the Middle East into a ticking time bomb. Rather than defusing the situation with a diplomatic surge, Bush's answer, true to form, was a military surge in Iraq. Now, he defends his strategy with the same misleading rhetoric that got us into this mess in the first place.

I won't be fooled by the president's reports of progress in Iraq. The lower level of violence is a welcome change, but it serves as a distraction from the source of the chaos in Iraq: a complete lack of political reconciliation. As Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said, "Barring (national reconciliation and economic growth), no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference."

We are led to believe that resistance to our presence in Iraq stems from al-Qaeda, but insurgents don't carry membership cards with their rifles. In reality, the violence represents an age-old internal struggle for power among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. We could place a guard in every doorway in Iraq and reduce the violence to zero, but that would be little help in the long term.

As the surge has conclusively proved, no matter how talented and brave our troops are, military action can't force the competing Iraqi factions to settle their differences.  The lull in violence in Iraq could be short-lived without political reconciliation among the various factions.

Ultimately, our military presence might be making the situation worse, as Iraqi political leaders hide behind our troops and refuse to make compromises necessary for peace. In fact, the very things that President Bush credits with helping reduce violence — the surge in U.S. troops in Baghdad, the arming of former Sunni insurgents and the cease-fire called by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — inflame sectarian tensions and obstruct political compromise in Iraq. Cooperation will never occur with an enormous U.S. military occupation babysitting the current power structure.

As chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, I, along with my colleagues from California, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, feel that the United States must foster peace in Iraq through diplomatic means, and not militarily.

Continuing to fund the occupation at enormous cost to the taxpayers will not bring peace to Iraq, only more chaos. We advocate fully funding the safe and responsible redeployment of our troops from Iraq. Only then will the Iraqi people be able to take responsibility for their own country.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, 77 Members of Congress advocating for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.