Iraq Has Not Reached A Turning Point
This weekend's announcement of a new, permanent Iraqi government should not be greeted with the fanfare given to it by the President.
On May 20th, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was inaugurated. In addition, Maliki announced his nominations to lead the various ministries which would help him govern Iraq, which the Iraqi Parliament accepted. However, Prime Minister Maliki did not name anyone for the ministry of Interior or Defense which are considered to be two of the most powerful posts in the Cabinet.
Not surprisingly, President Bush declared that the announcement was great news. Since the beginning of the war, he has been searching vainly for something that would reverse the violence in Iraq and permit US soldiers to return home. The seating of a permanent government will not achieve those goals.
On Sunday, President Bush said, "the formation of the unity government in Iraq begins a new chapter in our relationship with Iraq." He made similar remarks on Monday.
If the President announcing a fresh start in Iraq sounds familiar, it should. At least five times since the beginning of the Iraq war, President Bush has declared that Iraq has reached a positive turning point. He even said it on the one-year anniversary of the Iraq war. On March 19, 2004, the President said, "…as Iraqis join the free peoples of that world, we mark a turning point for the Middle East and a crucial advance for human liberty."
We heard similar comments from Vice-President Cheney on several occasions.
Time and again, these supposed turning points have fallen flat. After each ‘milestone' was achieved, violence in Iraq grew progressively worse and more US soldiers have died or have been injured.
Despite the Administration's consistent public expressions of approval as to certain events that have occurred in the Iraq war, the facts on the ground speak differently: over the weekend, while the Prime Minister was announcing his Cabinet, more than 40 Iraqis were killed and 74 were wounded in attacks across Iraq; over the past three years, the war has caused significant death and destruction in Iraq. Throughout the country, there have been more than 700 bombings which claimed at least 6,281 Iraqi lives including 70 car bombings in April 2006 alone; according to conservative estimates, 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the war began in March 2003 and as many as 40,000 additional Iraqis have been killed by crime as a result of lawlessness in Iraq.
It appears that ordinary Iraqis do not have much faith in the new government. An LA Times article reports that disappointment with the new government crosses religious lines -- it quotes a Sunni Muslim saying, "I don't have much faith that this new government will achieve democracy and security" and a Shiite saying, "I don't trust the new government. I don't expect anything from them."
Further, the article reported, "many Iraqis said they were worried that the new government, with its ministries distributed among sectarian parties, would only reinforce animosities between the factions, infusing this fragile society with even deeper tensions."
March 19, 2006 marked the third anniversary of the Iraq war. As of May 22nd, 2,457 US soldiers have died and 18,088 have been injured -- 2,318 of these deaths have occurred since May 1, 2003 when the President declared "mission accomplished" while standing on a US aircraft carrier. The war has cost US taxpayers more than $260 billion so far -- almost $11 million per hour! We have endured these costs despite not finding any weapons of mass destruction or any links to Al Qaeda – contrary to the confident reassurances given by the President and his Administration.
This war has limited our ability to meet our commitments here at home and has diminished our reputation throughout the world. We must conclude our involvement in Iraq and refocus our efforts on strengthening our homeland through investment in our schools, provision of healthcare for the 45 million Americans without it, and creation of good paying jobs here at home.
It is time to bring our soldiers home.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters is the Founder and Chair of the 72-member 'Out of Iraq' Congressional Caucus. The Caucus was formed in June 2005 to pressure the Administration to conclude the war in Iraq as soon as possible.