Amer­i­ca’s occu­pa­tion of Iraq will come to a close as orig­i­nal­ly promised, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma said at the White House on Fri­day, con­firm­ing that all Amer­i­can forces — with the excep­tion of a token force left to guard the U.S. Embassy in Bagh­dad — will be pulling out of Iraq by year’s end.

“Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thou­sands of them, will pack up their gear and board con­voys for the jour­ney home,” the Pres­i­dent said.

The U.S. and Iraq had been nego­ti­at­ing to keep some Amer­i­can troops in Iraq into 2012 and pos­si­bly beyond, but the nego­ti­a­tions appar­ent­ly failed after the U.S. insist­ed on immu­ni­ty for its sol­diers — and the Iraqis refused to grant it.

Keep­ing U.S. forces in Iraq past the with­draw­al date would have been a very bad idea. We nev­er should have invad­ed Iraq in the first place, and our cost­ly occu­pa­tion has last­ed far too long. It is time for our troops to come home to safe­ty and to their fam­i­lies, and it is time for us to stop spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars polic­ing anoth­er coun­try halfway around the world.

Accord­ing to the Nation­al Pri­or­i­ties Project, the occu­pa­tion of Iraq has cost U.S. tax­pay­ers $818,492,948,702 since 2003. That’s $818 bil­lion — with a b.

The cost to Wash­ing­ton tax­pay­ers alone is cur­rent­ly esti­mat­ed at $16,523,298,009.

If we had that $16 bil­lion avail­able to invest here in the Ever­green State, we could have avoid­ed dev­as­tat­ing cuts to vital pub­lic ser­vices fol­low­ing the onset of the Great Reces­sion. We would not have had to slash fund­ing for edu­ca­tion, health­care, or human ser­vices. We’d have been able to use what was left over to meet our infra­struc­ture needs, which are great. Sad­ly, that $16 bil­lion — our state’s share — was wast­ed over­seas rather than being invest­ed here at home.

“A com­plete draw­down from Iraq was the only move the Pres­i­dent could make, giv­en the Sta­tus of Forces Agree­ment nego­ti­at­ed by Pres­i­dent Bush, and the fact that insur­gents promised increased attacks on Amer­i­cans if we had stayed. We’re extreme­ly pleased that the Pres­i­dent will hon­or that agree­ment,” said Richard Allen Smith of in a state­ment. (VoteVets was formed in 2006 to oppose the occu­pa­tion of Iraq; it is now Amer­i­ca’s largest net­work of pro­gres­sive veterans).

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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