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Pull the Plug on the War

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The real truth about the war in Iraq is that it hasn't made us any safer at home and has only exacerbated the threat of terror attacks worldwide.

The continued presence of the U.S. military in Iraq is fanning the flames of global anti-Americanism while stretching our military to a breaking point. To change course for the better, we have to truly understand the enemy we face and make the needed adjustments to our military strategy.

The perpetrators of 9/11 died in the planes they hijacked while the masterminds, like Osama bin Laden, roam the mountains of Pakistan freely plotting more attacks on the United States. We've taken our eye off al Qaeda in Afghanistan and shifted the focus to an insurgency in Iraq that was a direct result of our invasion. It's only natural that people will rise up against a foreign military that is invading their land -- just as we would if it happened here.

The Bush administration and a bipartisan majority in Congress see the insurgency in Iraq as all al Qaeda. This argument inaccurately simplifies the many forms of Arab resistance to U.S. military presence in the Mideast for the average American.

In reality, the insurgency, for the most part, is composed of Iraqis who believe they're prisoners in their own country. If the Iraqi people truly wanted a foreign military to police their land, then there would never have been five years of resistance. This is the clear reality that's been disregarded as fiction by neocon intellectuals along with timid members of Congress (from both parties) who encourage a perpetual military occupation of Iraq with no regard for the consequences.

Our "surge" forces have been in Iraq for more than a year, and even after the drawdown, we'll have more boots on the ground than we did before the surge. So, as we approach the start of our sixth year in Iraq we are going straight back to square one.

Why is that? Is it sustainable?

Our troops have completed every mission given them. There were no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam is dead, the Iraqis have had three democratic elections, a new Iraqi army and police force have been built and the surge has quelled violence to levels that should make it more than possible for the Iraqi government to function.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the invasion, we should be looking for the way out, not reasons to stay. The troops have earned a right to come home and the Iraqis deserve the right to make their own decisions on their future, which I acknowledge is indeed uncertain.

If Iraq is ever to become a free and peaceful nation, it will be because that's what the Iraqis want -- not because of our continued presence. If Iraq should again become a dictatorship, it surely won't be because rogue terrorist thugs were able to conquer a nation of 25 million. That's just part of the spin that keeps the war going.

Next month, Congress will introduce legislation to provide President Bush with more than $100 billion in taxpayer dollars for military operations in Iraq. This may very well be the final check written by Congress for the Bush presidency to continue this war and occupation of choice.

For the sake of our country, our military and the world community, Congress must show that it has the guts to stand up to President Bush and force him to change course in Iraq before the existing damage becomes irreparable -- if it isn't already.

Although I'm totally opposed to staying the course, I understand the argument of those who advocate that. I know why they think we should stay -- but my question to them is "How and in what manner will we stay?"

And for those like me who argue strongly for a withdrawal of our troops and contractors from Iraq, my question is this: "Are we fully willing to accept what will happen in Iraq once we actually leave?" I am ready -- even though I acknowledge the very difficult dilemma on our hands.

Our presidential candidates and members of Congress need to keep in mind that they are up for re-election in November, not George W. Bush. I sincerely hope they'll be more candid regarding the situation in Iraq than they have been. Most important, it's imperative that they dedicate themselves to achieving the peaceful solution in Iraq that I believe is desired by all Americans, regardless of politics.

See column in the Philadelphia Daily News.