In 2003, during the run up to the war in Iraq, terrorism threats at home and overseas created an environment of fear that reverberated throughout the country. During this time, Barack Obama made a courageous and prescient speech calling for Washington to rethink this “dumb war.”

The war has cost the lives of thousands of U.S. servicemen and women and has wounded countless more. While many people have touted military strategies like the surge as the cause of the recent decrease in violence, many, notably Defense Secretary Robert Gates, aren’t sure these low levels of violence will endure. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll this month, more than half of Americans believe it is time to begin phasing troops out.

Barack Obama has put together a logical and organized plan for a structured withdrawal of one to two brigades a month, a plan endorsed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This will end the war in about 16 months without creating chaos in Iraq.

The war in Iraq is a distraction from the real war against terrorism: the war in Afghanistan. Afghan infrastructure is severely weakened, leading to drug trafficking and, consequently, violence. Since the start of the surge, al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has increased dramatically, leading Gen. David Petraeus to call for redeployment of troops there last week. Obama understands that Afghanistan is central to winning the war against terrorism and that only by beginning a phased withdrawal in Iraq can we begin to resume our efforts in Afghanistan.

While Obama has never agreed with the war, his voting record is consistently supportive of the troops. Throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has voted to increase funding for veterans’ health care, and he co-sponsored Virginia Sen. Jim Webb’s bill to provide adequate rest periods for troops between deployments. Obama also supported the new GI Bill, which provides veterans with a college education, a right they deserve in exchange for their sacrifices. Rather than sending troops into a war and failing to provide for them, Obama is willing to fund veterans’ needs, from increased body armor to top-notch health care and free education when they return.

Though the human loss is the most important reason for ending the occupation in Iraq, the economic implications of the war are also important. Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, the United States has spent almost $600 billion. According to the National Priorities Project website, the people of Michigan will pay $17.4 billion of that. This money could have been spent providing one year of health care for 6.5 million people or 13 million children, powering 24.5 million homes with renewable energy for one year or paying one year of college tuition and fees for roughly 1.8 million Michigan residents.

If Obama is elected president, he will phase troops out of Iraq in a logical, reasonable manner. Some troops will be redeployed to Afghanistan, where they will help make the region safer and protect the United States from terrorism. Some will return home where they will be provided with health care and an education. Ultimately, come Nov. 4, Americans must make a choice: Do we choose to continue a war based on fear and lies, or do we choose to end it?

This viewpoint was written on behalf of the University’s chapter of College Democrats

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.