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Campaign 2008

The Candidates and the World

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From the Inbox

by campaign2008
July 29, 2008

Reader Bill Donahue writes:

Much has been made about the comments of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki regarding Obama’s 16 month timetable for withdrawal of U.S. Troops. The common spin is that al-Maliki is putting pressure on the Bush administration. It might also be fueled by Iraqi concern about the U.S. election as well as local elections there. The Prime Minister knows that a portion of the United States wants to leave Iraq. If we do so, he is on his own. It could motivate him to ally himself with the powerful al-Sadr militant faction or at least join the chorus of anti-American groups. Also, there are provincial elections forthcoming in Iraq as well. It may be to al-Maliki’s advantage to seem tough and independent in their own election cycle. The militant radical Montique al-Sadr incidentally also is a supporter of Obama’s plans. He wants US troops out so he, an Iran supporter, can take over. So, if he is going to stay in power, al-Maliki, might feel the need to run toward his “right” just as Obama is now running toward his “center.” Also, militant groups will play upon the election to get U.S. troops out. Curiously, streetwise Iraqis are not so sure they want the US out too soon. It would destabilize the country and re-open the sectarian violence. Then what have we accomplished and what do they have but more bloodshed?

Also, by publicly debating the issue of timetables to leave, and emboldening people like Moqtada al-Sadr, we have made the situation on the ground more uncertain. If we cannot be trusted to stay and finish what we start, it is no wonder people in Iraq or the entire region will “run” to their right where al-Sadr and Iran wait in the wings. If we leave and the country disintegrates into civil war again, the lives of hundreds of our troops will have been wasted. Is that the right thing to do for the sake of the troops who have died and those still fighting every day? Will setting artificial timetables destroy the progress made and endanger the sacrifice already made? Whether you agreed with the entry into Iraq or not, having done so we have an obligation to leave without causing more violence. A lot of people on the streets placed their trust in us once we were there. We cannot just create timetables that suit one person’s election campaign ambitions but threaten stability there. I wonder if we have not already done that by driving al-Maliki toward people like al-Sadr? Will setting artificial deadlines give power to the militant groups like al-Sadr? Let’s remember that al-Sadr who has killed American troops and has never been called to justice for it. Senator Obama may have just made al-Sadr’s militant group more powerful. The on again off again relationship of al-Sadr with the Prime Minister’s government will be influenced by the knowledge that the United States is leaving by a date certain. When Senator Obama moves to Afghanistan, the militants there will expect the same withdrawal syndrome in short order. We may not like the war, but we have a moral and pragmatic obligation to finish what we start and finish it well. Our credibility with other nations in the area I think will be damaged by Senator Obama’s plan of unconditional withdrawal. He wants to be tough on Iran and Afghanistan. Who is going to take us seriously when we abandon the people in Iraq that stood with us?

Bill Donahue

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