Editorial: Bring the troops home

By Scott Patterson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 21, 2005

Immediate, unconditional withdrawal of American troops from Iraq has long been the correct answer to Iraq war woes. Unfortunately, however, such a strategy has always appeared too radical for our nation's politicians. It simply wasn't realistic. Times have changed.

To get anything done in our political system, you must play by the rules; you must compromise. Solutions must garner support from both sides of the political spectrum. Solutions must find a middle ground.

"Immediate withdrawal" represents the far left. "Fight until the fighting's done" represents the far right. Consequently, I reluctantly favored a gradual, timely withdrawal, figuring that falls right in the middle.

Today, however, things are different. U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) eased my fears. Murtha took a huge leap, boldly declaring this past week, "The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring (the troops) home."

He went on to add that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq has become "a catalyst for violence."

When Murtha called for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, immediate withdrawal ceased to be a radical idea.

Murtha's critics wasted no time in lashing out. He is, after all, a Democrat. For that, many claim his decision was political. Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) suggested that Murtha spoke out in hopes of becoming chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee if Democrats regain control of the House in midterm elections next year.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan unsuccessfully sought to discredit Murtha's comments by comparing them to views of the extreme left, claiming "(Murtha) is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."

The fact of the matter, however, is that Murtha is no member of the extreme liberal wing. He is an ex-Marine, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and has a reputation as one of Congress' most hawkish members. He is a ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and is well respected by his peers.

In fact, Dick Cheney himself, whom I hold to being the scariest man alive (I swear he eats people for fun), noted in the 2004 vice-presidential debate, "One of my strongest allies in Congress when I was secretary of defense was Jack Murtha."

The point is John Murtha is an influential player with good credibility; his comments are not to be taken lightly. Immediate withdrawal is not only a viable option - it's the necessary next step.

Critics of this plan of action abound.

President Bush, who reminds me of a life-size bobble-head doll that should assume his rightful place under the rearview mirror on some car dashboard, insists that Iraq is the center front on the war on terrorism (which is possibly true). And considering we are currently waging war on terrorism, it only makes sense to have troops there.

Unfortunately, what he fails to realize is that the efforts of American troops in Iraq is not reducing the threat, but augmenting it. Instead of quelling the terrorist threat and making America safer, our troops have perpetuated the violence.

That is not to say our troops are the ones to blame. Instead, it is our leaders and the policies they espouse that are at fault.

Bush, naturally, dismisses such claims as balderdash, amusingly pointing out "we were not in Iraq on September 11, 2001, but al-Qaida attacked us anyway," obviously completely unaware that such a statement carries no logical weight whatsoever.

American troops in Iraq are targets for guerilla fighters. They are viewed as occupiers. Remove the occupying force, and the fighters will lose their scapegoat for violence. If attacks continue anyway, the Iraqi people will see the wrongs the homegrown Iraqi terrorists commit and withdraw their support. The people will turn to the government for assistance.

In the end, immediate withdrawal is the best option. It's not surrender to terrorists. It's not retreat. And no one is cutting losses. Rather, the troops have done their "job." Saddam is gone. The time has come to let the Iraqis decide for themselves what the future has in store. Iraqis can, will and must take care of themselves.

Scott Patterson is an international studies senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.