Congress responds: our troops are leaving Iraq
Today, President Obama announced the overdue end to the war in Iraq. We were pushing for a complete withdrawal up until the last minute, with the Pentagon and some hawks pushing for a residual force past the agreed-upon deadline. We are finally seeing the results of the dedicated and persistent activism of thousands of people worldwide.
One of the reasons I wanted to work at Peace Action West was my outrage at the Iraq war that had started just six months before, and it is wonderful to see the inspiring activism I’ve witnessed and participated in over the last eight years bear fruit. While this war never should have started in the first place, the end of the war is a significant victory that has real life consequences; soldiers can safely return home and Iraqis can finally have their country back.
Many members of Congress hailed the announcement. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) highlighted the work and she and her allies have done in Congress to make sure the deadline stuck:
This is a huge victory for those of us who have been pushing for an end to the war in Iraq. I look forward to welcoming our brave men and women back home for the holidays. We will never forget the enormous sacrifices made by so many of our brave men and women and their families. We must honor our commitment to our veterans.
This move fulfills the call of a letter to the President that I spearheaded in July, along with 92 members of Congress, urging the Administration to maintain our nation’s SOFA agreement with the government of Iraq that commits our nation to bringing all of our troops and military contractors home at the end of this calendar year. It also fulfills the objective of legislation I introduced, H.R. 2757, The Iraq Withdrawal Accountability Act of 2011, which would prohibit funding for any extension of the December 31, 2011 deadline.
We are grateful to Rep. Lee and all of our allies in Congress who worked with us and tirelessly pushed to end this war. Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) called the announcement a victory for Iraqis and progressives:
President Obama’s announcement is a victory for America and another monumental step toward the end of the disastrous foreign policy of the Bush era. We thank the president for fulfilling his promise to the American people to end this misguided war quickly and responsibly. For nearly a decade, Americans across the country spoke out against this war, and now we can turn the page on a troubled period in American history. This is a long overdue victory for not just the people of Iraq, but the progressive movement that consistently opposed this costly and unjustified war.
As the president honors his commitment to America’s voters, we must also honor our commitment to our veterans by ensuring that they and their families receive the full benefits they have earned. We owe them nothing less.
Many members rightly pointed out that there is still the thorny issue of private military contractors in Iraq. From Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA):
I am happy to hear President Obama’s announcement that our troops will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. This is significant progress in the right direction. However, I am still concerned about the thousands of contractors who will continue to work in Iraq, and whether their continued presence constitutes a real withdrawal from the nation. While I hope the transition to a self-governing Iraq is a smooth one, I also hope for a true withdrawal of U.S. involvement.
Others celebrated this milestone, while bringing attention back to the fact that tens of thousands of troops and Afghans are still dealing with the tragedy of war in Afghanistan. After praising the announcement. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said:
It is important to remember that, as we are leaving Iraq, Americans are still fighting a ferocious war in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, we have achieved our main objectives. We have destroyed al Qaeda training camps and brought to justice those responsible for 9/11. We have unfortunately adopted an additional nation-building strategy that faces enormous obstacles and consumes an enormous share of our military and economic resources. This mission is unwise and unachievable, and I urge our President to quickly end this conflict as well.