By Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK
(Editor's Note:This was originally posted in USA Today on January 22, 2009.)
End the Occupation
Under the disastrous Bush years, the U.S. military invaded a country
that posed no threat to the United States, destroyed its infrastructure
and plunged it into chaos. This led to the death and displacement of
millions of Iraqis, squandered the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. troops
and robbed our Treasury of billions of much-needed dollars.
Now that President Obama inherits George W. Bush’s legacy, he must
make it perfectly clear to the Iraqis, the Americans and the world that
he intends to keep his campaign promise to oversee a complete, orderly
withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq no later than May 2010. Why?
The Iraqis want us out, as evidenced by poll after poll and the
recent debate in the Iraqi parliament over the Status of Forces
Agreement. The Iraqi people will vote on this agreement in July and
will only pass it if the Iraqis are convinced that U.S. troops will
soon be gone.
The American people want our troops out. The best reflection of this
is that they elected Barack Obama to lead us out of Iraq. Obama needs
to find solutions to the meltdown of the U.S. economy, not continue to
waste billions of tax dollars occupying Iraq.
The presence of U.S. troops ensures ongoing violence by attracting
armed opposition and postpones the day of reckoning among Iraqi
factions. Sticking to a timeline will force the Iraqi government and
the different ethnic and religious groups to negotiate power-sharing
Iraqi neighbors and the international community will feel obligated
to engage in diplomatic and reconstruction efforts only if they
understand the U.S. is serious about leaving. Chaos in Iraq is not in
the interest of any nation, especially Iraq’s neighbors. Obama must
immediately bring them into the transition process.
Obama’s administration needs to dramatically shift the image of the
United States in the Muslim world. The unjustified U.S. invasion of an
Arab nation has been a powerful tool in the recruitment of violent
anti-American groups. This can and must be turned around, and leaving
Iraq will help.
Obama must quickly show a radical change in policy by ending the
U.S. occupation of Iraq (including military contractors), resettling
the enormous refugee population it helped create, committing to
diplomacy and rebuilding this war-torn nation.