Center for American Progress Action
A Grim Anniversary
A Grim Anniversary
Four years into the war, the situation in Iraq is grim. To protect our national security, we must adopt a strategic redeployment strategy.
On March 19, 2003, President Bush spoke to the nation from the Oval Office and announced that the United States was invading Iraq. “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly — yet, our purpose is sure. … [O]ur forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.” Four years later, the American public is no longer sure what the president’s “purpose” was for invading Iraq, nor do we know when our troops will be coming home. Violence in Iraq continues to skyrocket, and Bush’s escalation seems to be driving the United States into “a much deeper and longer-term role in policing Iraq than since the earliest days of the U.S. occupation.”
- Average Iraqis are less secure today than they were at the start of the war. At least 150,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in violence since the beginning of the war. Car bombings reached an all-time high in January and February, and for the first time, the Pentagon last week acknowledged that “some of the violence in Iraq can be described as a civil war.” It was the Pentagon’s “bleakest assessment of the war to date.” A new BBC/ABC News poll finds that fewer than 40 percent of Iraqis “said things were good in their lives,” compared to 71 percent two years ago. The Washington Post reports that “Sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down at the moment, but the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have increased outside the capital.” Iraqi officials are also falling behind on the benchmarks of progress it promised to meet. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced that he will miss his “self-imposed deadline for reshuffling the Cabinet,” and just two Iraqi brigades and one battalion of a third have arrived in Baghdad, despite the Iraqi government’s promise to employ three brigades.
- The overextension and systematic neglect of our military has left our troops less prepared. In 2000, Bush stated, “To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that’s no criticism of the military. That is criticism of a president and vice president and their record of neglect.” Yet now, as all signs point to a military that is overextended, the Bush administration is trying to claim that the military’s readiness is “unprecedented.” In reality, the U.S. Army’s preparedness for war “has eroded to levels not witnessed by our country in decades.” Army and Marine Corps officials say it will take years for their forces to recover from a “death spiral” in which rapid war rotations have “consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops, and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.” Similarly, troops coming back from war — with unprecedented levels of mental health disorders — are facing a bureaucracy unprepared to deal with them, as the Walter Reed scandal highlighted.
- It is time for a strategic redeployment of the troops to safeguard our national security. Fifty-eight percent of Americans “want to see U.S. troops leave Iraq either immediately or within a year.” Forty-nine countries joined Bush’s Coalition of the Willing at the start of the Iraq war. By mid-2007, just 20 countries will remain after Britain, Denmark, and South Korea reduce their forces. Even National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley recently acknowledged that some Iraqis want the U.S. military presence to be “over.” The Center for American Progress has a plan called “Strategic Redeployment” that calls for a gradual drawdown of American troops coupled with increased engagement with Iraq’s political leaders. The plan goes beyond the debate between “cutting and running” and “staying the course” to show how we can more effectively achieve success in Iraq. The House Appropriations Committee also recently approved legislation to calling for troops to “leave Iraq before September 2008, and possibly sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks.”
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