Posted by | December 16, 2011 00:15 | Filed under: Top Stories

By Yashwanth Manjunath

The last US troops have finally left Iraq and the nightmare is finally over. The war didn’t end in a blaze of glory; there was no aircraft carrier and no “Mission Accomplished” banner, just a small ceremony. So why are we leaving now, and what lesson do we need to take away from one of the most shameful chapters in American history? Before I answer those questions I first want address the devastating costs associated with this war.

4,484 American military personnel have been killed in Iraq since 2003. Another 32,200 have been wounded. A staggering 113,728 Iraqi civilians are dead, four of whom just died in an IED explosion yesterday. Cost of operations to date to date in Iraq are $823.2 billion, but to put the true financial cost of war spending in perspective, the projected Medicare shortfall over the next 75 year is 0.4% of GDP, less than one quarter of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So with less than 25% of the money we spent murdering innocent people in the Middle East, we could continue to provide senior citizens with affordable universal health care for as long as all of us will be alive.

Many will be tempted to give the Obama administration credit for the troops finally coming home, for following through on a major campaign promise, but the truth is he deserves none. The timetable for this current withdrawal from Iraq was put in place by the Bush administration. The only modification to the Bush timeline that Obama tried to make was to stay in Iraq longer and prolong the war at the urging of both former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. So who does deserve credit for this nearly decade-long debacle finally coming to a conclusion?

100% of the credit should be directed towards the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, and most of all Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr’s combination of political pressure on Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, and his threat to once again unleash the Mahdi army on remaining US troops, is what forced the Obama administration to back off their demands to retain thousands of troops within the country past the planned withdrawal date. Sadr may be a murderous monster, but without his influence this war would still be going on.

But moving beyond what finally ended the war, the lesson that we need to take from this tragedy is that we as Americans can never allow this to happen again. The Iraq War happened, not just because of conservatives and Republicans, but liberals and Democrats as well. Al Franken supported this war, HilLary Clinton supported the war, Nicholas Kristof supported the war, and worst of all 62% of the American people supported the war when it started.

We are all responsible for the consequences of our actions, and the next time a politician in either party comes along proposing the next war (because there will definitely be a “next war”) it is our duty to ask the one question that matters. “Would you send your son or daughter to fight?” and the if the answer isn’t “Yes” then our answer should be hell no.

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