Time to set a date for withdrawal

Iraq demonstrations walk on U.S. flag (AP)

By narrow margins, both the House and the Senate have voted to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a so-called “date certain.” If a compromise bill reaches the president’s desk, he will veto it, relying on the argument that letting enemy forces know when we’re leaving will encourage them and provide certain strategic advantages. Perhaps.

But assertions about the impact of a timetable for withdrawal should be considered against the backdrop of miscalculation that characterizes this war. Iraqis are fighting American troops and each other for various obscure reasons, and I suspect that the effect of an established timetable for withdrawal is, at best, unpredictable.

After all, the Iraqis, as well as the other players in the Middle East, already know that America cannot afford to stay in Iraq indefinitely, and the president has said that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended. Current troop levels are unsustainable for 10 years or five years or even three years. The armed services are overextended and the American people are unlikely to tolerate the status quo for much longer. One easily forgotten lesson from Vietnam is that there are few forces that are more patient than insurgents fighting in their own country.

So an American withdrawal is inevitable. As yet, the date is uncertain, but in patient-insurgency time, it’s not that far away.

Sometimes supporters of the war express a patronizing sympathy with the viewpoint of most Americans, who want our troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible. The supporters understand, they say, that Americans are tired of the war and frustrated. They admit to frustration, as well, but maintain that America has to be resolute. But this condescending argument pictures Americans as children who’ve become bored and frustrated with, say, putting together a difficult model airplane on a rainy day. With sufficient patience, the adults say, we can make this work.

But I don’t think Americans are frustrated and tired of the war so much as they recognize its initial pointlessness and the current futility of a situation in which the presence of American troops has become more of a problem than a solution.

What would be the impact of setting a firm withdrawal date in the near future?

First, consider the math: As of this writing, April 6, American troops have been at war in Iraq for 1,477 days. A headline on page 4A of today’s local newspaper reads, “8 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.” (Four British troops and 49 civilians were killed, as well.) Ignoring the numberless Iraqi civilian deaths, as well as life-changing injuries to American and coalition troops, today’s death toll brings the total for American men and women killed in Iraq to 3,266.

In other words, over the past four years 2.2 American troops have been killed every day, an average that is unlikely to decrease as long as Americans are in Iraq in force. If the United States withdraws in one year, as the Senate proposes, more than 800 additional troops will die. If we take our time with our inevitable withdrawal, in three more years the total death toll will approach 5,700 troops. The numbers are hypothetical, but the deaths will be real.

Since the administration’s estimation of the impact of an announcement of a scheduled withdrawal is largely speculation, consider a different speculation. Wars, like short stories and novels, have beginnings, middles and ends. In Iraq, we’re in the middle, with no end in sight. All of the parties with interests in Iraq, except the United States, have the resources, will and patience to continue the conflict more or less indefinitely. And as long as the conflict continues, so will the deaths.

The announcement of a scheduled American withdrawal from Iraq would be the inevitable first step toward the end of the Iraq war. In fact, its effect could be a temporary sense of relief that provides the breathing space necessary for a diplomatic settlement that involves the whole region, which everyone but administration “dead-enders” already understand is the only way out.


(John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. E-mail jcrisp(at)delmar.edu.)


  1. Carl Nemo

    What will Bushco’s excuse be to ignore the Iraqi people?! They are ignoring the will of our own people concerning our extrication from Iraq. Now Iraqi’s are saying get out of our country immediately if not sooner! Fairly soon the world will see the true, ugly face of the NWO/MIC/AIPAC crowd as they thumb their collective noses at the peoples of the world! They are like an evil, mighty dragon that needs St. George to take care of the problem, unfortunately there is no St. George to save the day. The real tragedy is the Congressmen and Senators that “we the people” have sent to D.C. are part of the problem and not the solution concerning our leader’s intransigent occupation of Iraq. The war is a failed paradigm that was waged based on false, cooked intelligence courtesy of the corrupt PNAC, neo-con Feith/Cheney rogue intelligence operation. Their sole intent to steal the Iraqi petroleum reserves, to build bases in that country and to enrich the MIC and the oil-patch, nothing more, nothing less!
    If martial law hasn’t been declared by the elections of 2008, then I advise citizens in every state of the union to summarily rip their duly elected traitors that might be up for re-election from office, summarily, and with no questions asked! If the electorate is stupid enough to re-send those elected disappointments back then they are fools indeed, and truly deserve the boots of their NWO controllers on their collective necks. America and the “world” is in harms way with these mattoids in control. Enough is enough…”Impeachment Now”…!

  2. waldemar

    I totally agree with you on your assessments. This is the letter I sent to my congressman this morning.

    Dear Congressman ,

    I greatly appreciate the work you are doing with respect to deterring Bush’s illegal war of aggression in Iraq. Today I read that bush wants to talk to the Democrats about funding the war without a time table.

    It would appear that this president does not understand what government by the people and for the people means. The people want nothing more to do with Bush or his illegal war.

    It doesn’t matter in terms of the outcome whether we leave next month or two years from now. The consequences in Iraq will be the same – a blood bath! Bush is guilty of committing the crimes of mass murder and genocide and I pray that some day the world will hold him accountable for these crimes! The fact that America allows this criminal to continue inflicting misery and death on third world countries adds to the disgrace and shame of the United States and its Congressional leaders!

    Pulling out sooner than later, may however save the lives of more of our troops. Leaving later, will save bush’s ego, cost the lives of more US troops and guarantee that the next president is left cleaning up his messes. The longer the United States stays in Iraq the more severe the Blow Back will be to Americans and their overseas interests!

    Please continue in your efforts to curbe the abuses of power this tin-pot despot is inflicting on America and its tattered Constitution.


  3. SEAL

    If we set a date for withdrawal the sunnis ans shiites will start making preparations for the full blown civil war that will erupt. That is what will happen. In the meantime, nothing will change as far as the American soldier is concerned.

  4. Bill Jonke

    Things need to change for the American soldier.

    As far as civil war in Iraq is concerned, if they’re that inclined, let them have it.

    Extended tours of duty and troop surges are likely to create civil war on our soil once again.

  5. Kaine

    Does it really matter if we leave sooner or later? Will the Iraqis not have their civil war whenever we decide to leave?

    In a war that should have never been, I think it is time for us to leave. There is nothing else we can do there. There is nothing else there for us to destroy.

    I thought that one of our diplomats that got us in to this war stated, that when Iraqis want us to leave, we will. Well, it is obvious that the Iraqi people want us to leave, yet we stay. Why?

  6. Bill Robinson

    OK, so now we have both houses of Congress, the majority of the American People, and hundreds of thousands of Iraquis if not millions of them all telling Bush that the United States is no longer wanted or needed in Iraq. I know he is stupid and greedy and that Cheney is pulling his strings, but what is it going to take to make him and his puppeteer listen?
    Apparently the only answer is a Bill of Impeachment, for violating his oath of office, for offences against the Constitution, for refusing to obey the laws of the United States of America. Even those two vile monsters are not above the law, and it is time WE THE PEOPLE stood up and told them so.
    We are a nation of diverse indivuals from many parts of the world, but our country is aptly named. We are the UNITED STATES and we are a UNITED PEOPLE–we will not be violated any longer. If Congress will not act then we must take it upon ourselves to begin the processes that made our Nation. The time for Peaceful Revolution may be upon us, and if our representatives will not listen to reasonable men and women, then they must be replaced by people who will.
    We must stop the murdering of our young Americans in Iraq by bringing them home out of harms way. Bush and Cheney have killed and maimed over 55,000 of our men and women in their greed–they should be made to pay with a loss of their office and appropriate jail terms. If this were Texas, they would be sentenced to death, and if Bush was the Governor there would be no appeal. We are not so merciless. Let’s try them and them give them what they deserve, but first let us bring our troops home NOW.

  7. Ardie

    Forget Iraq. Some in the military aren’t being honest. It takes about 10 years to develop an army that can fight on its own. What many Americans don’t understand is that military service in most countries like Iraq is like being a pirate. It is a way to become rich and powerful. In addition, no fighting army can exist in a culture of corruption. Forget the Iraqi army. What any elite soldier will tell you is that its is much cheaper and eaiser to arm local villagers to defend themselves and develop a good scouting cadre for amassing credible intelligence. Our hare brains haven’t figured this out yet. I guess they are working for another star.

  8. Cougar

    Seems the injured soldiers are missing. How many have been injured? Their numbers are growing each and every day. The number of Iraqis injured are also growing and they certainly don’t have the medical care and facilities they need to cope. Thousands and thousands are injured. The numbers are staggering.
    I read and article a while back and I think the number of soldiers injured as way over 20,000. Don’t quote me on that however. I think that should be seriously looked into on both sides.

  9. Ross

    I was talking to my Christian Zionist friend today, and I was trying to explain to her that there is no military objective in Iraq. The military is completely useless in this situation. She is of course furious with the democrats for giving all our information to the enemy. When I confronted her with the fact that we don’t really have any idea who our enemy is, she says that that is good, and the government should keep things like that secret, and that we should just trust them.

    I explained (and not for the first time) how this war is not even about gas prices, but is simply about the fact that Iraq stopped selling oil in dollars and switched to Euros. I explained how in the 70’s we promised OPEC nations we would not bomb them as long as they only sold oil in dollars, and how changing from this system would bankrupt our economy, and how we’re just trying to make up for being stupid for the past 40 years.

    She does not deny any of this, but just says that she trusts that they have good reasons for doing this, and that we might even be the enemy, so they shouldn’t tell us anything, and she went on about how she doesn’t trust the electorate, but she trusts Bush, because he was elected, and so we went around and around for about 5 hours, and nothing sunk in.

    If we have a military goal, maybe we should try and accomplish it. But we don’t. So we should leave. NOW. The longer we wait, the weaker our military will become, and the less able we will be to deal with REAL THREATS.

    But people still blindly (admittedly blindly) believe in Bush, this war, and everything he stands for. Try asking a Bush supporter what our goal in Iraq is, and they will admit that they don’t want to know the truth, and that we must be enemies to want to know the truth.

    I don’t want my government to kill innocent people. ALL Iraqis that have been killed fighting American occupation were fighting for a just cause. And families whose loved ones have been killed in action should remind themselves of this. We need to leave now, and not in a year.

  10. SEAL

    Living in the bible belt I have had many barber shop type conversations with Bush supporters. For about a year now, they agree that Iraq is a mistake and hope we get out of there soon. They admit that Bush has not been completely truthful (they will not say he lied) about some things but they feel he must have had a good reason for it.

    Most of them are unhappy with the way things are going both overseas and here at home. Not mad or upset, just not happy. When I ask them if they think Bush has done a good job, they are vague with answers that try to excuse him. When I put the question to them directly, “Why do you trust and continue to support Bush?” The answer is exactly the same from almost every single person – “Because he is a born again christian! So,I know he is a good man!”

  11. Ray

    I don’t believe that many americans know or even consider the real reasons for our occupation of Iraq and Afganastan. It was not and is not to bring freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples as saviors to be greeted with flowers and love from those who we saved. It was and is a direct corrilation with the wishes and directive from the zionist leaders of Israel. Whether you want to acknowledge the truth or not that congress, senate, and americas foriegn policy is controlled by Israel doesn’t change fact. It is simple. When there is war, there are those who benefit from it. History shows us that all past wars were created for profits with the bankers playing one side against the other and profiting from both. This war on terror takes it one step further to a never ending conflict of its own making designed to give Israel the expansion it wants by eliminating its local enemies and in giving war profiteers unlimited opportunity and at the same time establishing a military rule over americans which is all about the new world order. This is why Bush refuses to set a time to quit, it is not his call. Israel is the place to seek an end to this madness in the middle east.

  12. gene

    I am a retired LTC with over 20 years active duty in the Army, retied in 1996. I am so greateful this was not happening while I was on active duty. It breaks my heart to see all these young men killed or hurt for reasons I consider criminal. The whole bases for this tragedy was based on lies as many know for certain now. Bush is guilty of murder ( tens of thousands) but congress is equally as guilty for not stoping him sooner. Its been nothing but a political mess with insane players on both sides of congress but with republicans taking the lead. Individuals like McCain have literally lost touch with reality and how sicking to watch his political ass parade in the streets of Baghdad. This county is indeed in serious troube more so than the average American would ba able to realize or accept.

  13. C. Nemo

    Nice letter waldemar and I’m impressed with your pro-active support concerning this nations plight. My apologies for not complmenting you sooner. It’s not that my post possibly motivated you because I’ve read many of your posts over time and they represent well thought commentary. I post on other sites and my focus is to hopefully inspire Americans to take an interest in saving this precious jewell we all share known simply as “Freedom” from being stolen by globalist free-booters such as we now have in office. It is my hope that everyday in everyway someone else picks up their quill pen via their keyboard and sends their thought-shot across the bow of the dreadnaught “Tyranny”. Thanks again for your pro-active demonstration of patriotism.
    Carl Nemo **==