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 VoteVets.org in a statement. (VoteVets was formed in 2006 to oppose the occupation of Iraq; it is now America’s largest network of progressive veterans).