At every JRC Shabbat evening service since December 2006, we’ve introduced our Prayer for Peace by reading the names of three American soldiers, three Iraqi civilians and three Afghan civilians who have been killed since these wars began in 2001.
It’s our way of very simply reminding ourselves that we are citizens of nation at war, that war comes with a real human cost, and that war is a terrible and daily reality for real life individuals. And we do it to acknowledge that as American citizens, we are complicit in all actions made by our country.
Exactly one year ago, when Obama announced a reduction of American combat forces in Iraq from 144,000 to 50,000 troops, I was tempted to stop reading the names of the Iraqi war dead during our services – but I was prevailed upon to continue by many JRC members. After all, Obama himself said that our active combat presence would be maintained until the end of 2011. And as long as this is the case, we’d be hard pressed to deny that we were still a nation at war.
And now – surprise of surprises – we’re hearing indications that Secretary of Defense Panetta and others in the Obama administration believe that “some American forces should stay beyond 2011.”
Oh yes, make no mistake: we are still very much at war in Iraq….
Obama campaigned on the promise to end this war. Americans oppose the war in Iraq by an overwhelming margin. Our economy is in crisis and Congress has committed to find $1.2 trillion in savings for the coming year. It’s time to wake up from our slumber and let our leaders know its time to end this misbegotten adventure as promised.
Rep. Barbara Lee of California is currently sponsoring a bill known as the “Iraq Withdrawal Accountability Act” – legislation that would prohibit funding of troops and military contractors in Iraq past 2011. Please click here and join me in urging your Congressperson to co-sponsor Rep. Lee’s bill.
PS: At the risk of ending this post on an abjectly depressing note, I recently read that regardless of when the American military pulls out of Iraq, our presence there would still not be over by a long shot. Read, if you dare, this piece by ex-foreign service staffer Peter Van Buren, in which he explains what will actually happen when the American presence in Iraq is transferred from the military to the Dept. of State:
(The) State Department hasn’t exactly been thinking small when it comes to its future “footprint” on Iraqi soil. The U.S. mission in Baghdad remains the world’s largest embassy, built on a tract of land about the size of the Vatican and visible from space. It cost just $736 million to build — or was it $1 billion, depending on how you count the post-construction upgrades and fixes?
In its post-“withdrawal” plans, the State Department expects to have 17,000 personnel in Iraq at some 15 sites. If those plans go as expected, 5,500 of them will be mercenaries, hired to shoot-to-kill Iraqis as needed, to maintain security. Of the remaining 11,500, most will be in support roles of one sort or another, with only a couple of hundred in traditional diplomatic jobs. This is not unusual in wartime situations. The military, for example, typically fields about seven support soldiers for every “shooter.” In other words, the occupation run by a heavily militarized State Department will simply continue in a new, truncated form — unless Congress refuses to pay for it.