Democratic Congressman Brian Baird of Washington has a powerful op-ed in the Seattle Times arguing that our troops deserve more time to further the progress in Iraq:
As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change substantially for the better. I believe Iraq could have a positive future. Our diplomatic and military leaders in Iraq, their current strategy, and most importantly, our troops and the Iraqi people themselves, deserve our continued support and more time to succeed….
…As one soldier said to me, “We have lost so many good people and invested so much, It just doesn’t make sense to quit now when we’re finally making progress. I want to go home as much as anyone else, but I want this mission to succeed and I’m willing to do what it takes. I just want to know the people back home know we’re making progress and support us.”
It’s interesting how the political winds have shifted in the past few weeks — the old narrative was that our troops had failed, the security situation on the ground was impossible and that the war is unwinnable. Now, the standard narrative has changed: the surge is working, but it doesn’t matter anyway because the Iraqis are too backwards for democracy. The only consistency in these shifting narratives is the urgent desire for failure — not because of what’s happening in Iraq, but solely based on domestic political concerns. The Democratic Party has staked their ground on failure in Iraq, and they lose if America wins. The radical partisans have put the Democratic Party in a condition where the only way for them to win is for the country to fail.
Rep. Baird, along with others, are wise enough to realize that the political script in Washington and the reality in Iraq are not even close to the same. What goes on in Iraq is almost never reported here — the media has no interest in adequately covering the conflict in Iraq, and it’s up to those independent journalists and soldiers on the ground throughout Iraq to provide the context which the media does not provide. The “surge” and its tactical changes have produced results. Combined with the grassroots anti-terrorist movements in Diyala and al-Anbar Province, the security situation in Iraq is slowly but demonstrably improving.
Rep. Baird also points out the humanitarian aspect to this conflict, something many of his follow Democrats would rather ignore:
From a strategic perspective, if we leave now, Iraq is likely to break into even worse sectarian conflict. The extremist regime in Iran will expand its influence in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. Terrorist organizations, the people who cut off the heads of civilians, stone women to death, and preach hatred and intolerance, will be emboldened by our departure. In the ensuing chaos, the courageous Iraqi civilians, soldiers and political leaders who have counted on us will be left to the slaughter. No American who cares about human rights, security and our moral standing in the world can be comfortable letting these things happen.
Rep. Baird is absolutely right, and he deserves credit for bravely standing against members of his own party and speaking out for human rights in Iraq. There is no doubt that the consequences of a US withdrawal would be disastrous — Iraq would see ethnic cleansing on the scale of other complex humanitarian disasters we’ve already seen — the world does not need another Uganda, Cambodian, or Darfur. Yet that is precisely what is bound to happen if the United States withdraws without fulfilling its moral and strategic duties to leave Iraq capable of defending itself.
The war in Iraq is not “Bush’s war”, it is not some partisan football, it is the most critical engagement of our time. To shirk our responsibilities towards the Iraqi people is to be the instigators of genocide. This country cannot even think of restoring American leadership while leaving our allies to be slaughtered. The Democratic Party continues to push for just such an irresponsible withdrawal — thankfully there remain a few members of that party with the intellectual honesty and support for universal human rights to see past the partisan blinders and realize what the stakes are in Iraq. Such people are putting principle and patriotism before party, and this country needs more leaders with the honesty and courage of Rep. Baird.