US TROOPS return from Iraq — leaving behind a country in turmoil.
President Barack Obama is ending George W. Bush's war.
Obama, of course, was elected on the promise to get America out of Iraq. It's taken three-plus years, but within a matter of days US troops will be gone, although approximately 5000 "security contractors" — read mercenaries — will remain.
The war has left almost 4500 soldiers killed, an estimated 100,000 wounded, and more than $1 trillion expended — with another $3 trillion in veterans' health-care costs projected. Aside from all this, what do we have to show for it?
Sure, Saddam Hussein is dead. But so are tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, with many more wounded. What once passed for a social fabric is in tatters. Iraq may be more peaceful at the moment than it was at the height of the insurgency, but civil strife — if not civil war — threatens.
From a geopolitical point of view, America's self-proclaimed arch-enemy Iran has never had more influence within Iraq.
America has created a vacuum and called it peace.
Political expediency requires that Obama declare victory. His supporters trust that he is not delusional.
Republicans and quite a few conservatives howl like dry drunks. They know the days of unrestrained imperial adventure are ending, but they resent having to abandon their bad habit. Those on the right who don't recognize this are either ignorant or dumb. They could, of course, be both.
America cannot handle the truth that Iraq was a mistake — especially in a presidential election year.
So Vice-President Joe Biden, long an opponent of the war, has to trot around trying to convince cable-TV audiences of the subtle nature of our victory.
No wonder the vice-presidency isn't considered worth a pitcher of warm spit.
People who are interested in the reality of the situation should make no mistake. The US was not so much kicked out of Iraq as pressured out.
The Iraq government, in effect, threatened to subject American troops remaining in country for peacekeeping purposes to charges of war crimes when and if it suited their purposes.
And, in October, Iraqi head of government Nouri al-Maliki also rejected a US request to maintain bases after troop withdrawal.
Just a few days ago, however, he issued a call for American corporate investment to help the economically ravaged nation back on its feet.
The US may not be able to buy al-Maliki, but he appears to be available for short-term leasing. Authority is so tenuous in Iraq that al-Maliki's own deputy prime minister considers him an illegitimate "dictator."
The killing of Osama bin Laden and Muammar Qaddafi, while not directly related to the Iraq war, make it difficult for all but the most deranged and bloodthirsty Republicans to claim that Obama is soft on Muslim despots.
As for the war in Afghanistan, Obama's support for the military surge called for by the Pentagon did provide him with political cover to get the US out of Iraq.
But it was a short-sighted tactic that has spawned a host of other problems. The Afghan leaders are even more corrupt — and perhaps more ungrateful — than the Iraqis.
The US military brass continues to press for a multi-year commitment. Americans, however, are just as tired of this war as they are of Iraq. Obama has himself in a corner. He now owns the Afghan war. America can't blame Bush for our continued presence in that fetid quagmire.