To restore American honor, we must leave Iraq

Published: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 11:41 p.m.
During the time of year when Christians and Jews profess to celebrate "peace on earth and goodwill to men," I am saddened that President Bush, Congressman Cliff Stearns and the majority of American voters do not understand that the most debilitating cost of the U. S. military intervention in Iraq has been our loss of credibility - credibility as an advocate and broker of peace, freedom and democracy.
Bold American leadership is needed - now. In spite of past lies and deceptions used to justify his reckless action and the needless murder of more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis, the president of the United States still has the opportunity to restore our credibility, to reclaim our honor and to lead the free world with foreign policies based on transparency, truth and justice.
How? President Bush simply needs to announce his intention to withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately after the January elections and turn our new military bases over to the new Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces.
Unfortunately, the president continues to tell the world that the elections in January are "just the beginning of a process" and that he will continue to keep American troops in Iraq long after the elections.
Why? Are American troops needed to write a new constitution for the new Iraqi National Assembly? Is it in the interest of America to establish a democratic Iraqi government or an Iraqi government that bends to the will of American interests?
After helping George Washington defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown, Adm.
Degrasse gathered his troops and the French fleet sailed away, never to return.
In spite of harrassment from British loyalists, American patriots managed to secure peace, and representatives of the 13 colonies drafted our Constitution without the "protection" of foreign troops on our soil.
Can you imagine what might have happened had French troops occupied Philadelphia to provide "security" so the Protestants from New England wouldn't fight with the Deists from Virginia?
We must give Iraq back to the Iraqis - now. Let the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds, the Baathists and countless other groups work out their differences by themselves. Saddam is in prison, the tyrant is gone - that mission was accomplished one year ago.
Why does President Bush keep American troops in Iraq? What is the threat to America?
As long as American troops are patrolling the streets, Americans will be targets.
Like it or not, many Iraqis see America as an occupying power. The rhetoric that we are "killing terrorists in Iraq so we do not have to kill them in America" is insane.
Now that we are an occupying power, we have become part of the problem. Our continued presence is breeding terrorists.
We are now killing Iraqis who are fighting an occupying army. We are now empowering terrorists to exploit this reality for their own purposes.
We must not have such a high opinion of ourselves and our motives that we are blind to the powerful human emotions and forces that forged our own democracy.
We must empower the Iraqi people to take full responsibility for their future. We must leave. When American troops leave, the killing might continue unabated and a full-fledged civil war could erupt. But the killing may also end.
Let's free the Iraqi people of foreign interference by admitting that we are the foreigners.
Let's empower the Iraqi people to forge their own future by leaving.
What have we got to lose?
I am angered when the president tells us that the war on terror requires that American troops be based in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries for a long, long time.
Wake up, people: American military bases in Saudi Arabia are the reason we are in this mess. Terrorists attacked America because American troops are based on Arab soil.
Is it right to use American troops to guarantee the flow of cheap oil to a freewheeling global economy?
Right or wrong, the American military presence plays into the hands of zealots who use terror for political, religious or economic gain.
America has been a major force in Arab politics for more than 20 years.
Back in 1981, Ronald Reagan trashed President Carter's energy independence programs and began to exert American military power in the region. He decided that the foundation of U.S. energy policy was to guarantee the flow of cheap oil from Saudi Arabia.
For more than 20 years, American taxpayers have done this by protecting the Saudi royal family from attacks from Iran and Iraq and internal dissent from revolutionaries, such as Osama bin Laden.
Until 9-11, oil was relatively cheap; our oil-energy policy seemed to be working.
Now we know that we were merely funding powerful elements within Saudi society that opposed our policies. It is ironic - and tragic - that petrodollars are funding terrorism.
We are now learning how expensive our shortsighted policy to flood world markets with cheap Saudi oil has been. After just three years of war, the direct cost to American taxpayers will exceed $200 billion and thousands of shattered lives.
Will a democratic Iraq threaten the flow of cheap oil from the Middle East? I don't know. But if we are to be true to our own heritage, that's a chance we have to take.
Dave Bruderly is a Gainesville engineer who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002.

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