Operation New Dawn: Obama Gets Us Out of Iraq
This is the story of a nation beset with pessimism after 8 years of being lied to and taken for an economic ride that left too many Americans homeless and jobless. Think Hooverville. A desperate citizenry was so hungry for change, they elected the first black President, whose message of “hope and change” resonated with their wounded psyches.
During his year a half as President, the nation, struggling under the weight of epic economic woes, easily tossed their hope and change by the wayside. Cynicism was the mood of the day. One of the citizens’ largest complaints was that the hopeful President had run on getting them out of Iraq and yet they were still there.
To put this in perspective, let’s take a brief journey through time:
Flashback to a nation in turmoil, being led into war by a dishonest administration:
March 16, 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney on NBC’s “Meet the Press”:
“And we believe he [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”
May 1, 2003 “Mission Accomplished” banner was displayed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a televised address by President George W. Bush. Bush stated at the time that this was the end to major combat operations in Iraq. The problem was, hundreds of thousands of American troops were still there six years later when he left office.
May 30, 2003, during a visit to Poland, President Bush said:
“We have found weapons of mass destruction.”
July 14, 2003, President Bush’s Oval Office remarks:
“The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”
September 17, 2003, the President’s answer to a reporter’s question:
“No, we’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th….There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties.”
The Nation’s new president, President Obama, took office in January of 2009.
February 27, 2009 Camp Lejeune, President Obama:
“Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.”
Cut to: August 2010 a nation battered by economic troubles and weary of war is unaware that their President is keeping his word on Iraq.
August 2, 2010, President Barack Obama speaking at the national convention of Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, Georgia:
“As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule.
Already, we have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases. We’re moving out millions of pieces of equipment in one of the largest logistics operations that we’ve seen in decades. By the end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office — more than 90,000 have come home.”
We are finally leaving Iraq. By September first, we will have only 50,000 troops left in Iraq. The draw down is called “Operation New Dawn”. As of today, the U.S. has officially turned over all combat operations in Iraq to Iraqi security forces.
“Today is an extremely important day as we continue to progress toward turning over full responsibility to the Iraqi security forces,” General Raymond Odierno, Commanding General of U.S. forces in Iraq, told reporters after a departure ceremony for the last U.S. combat brigade.
It is the hope that Operation New Dawn will assist the Iraqis in maintaining a democracy (a democracy somewhat diminished by the fact that their current government can arguably be viewed as a puppet government of the US). The inherent risks in any new democracy are high in Iraq: civil war, revolution, and chaos.
The President never wanted to be in Iraq, but he wasn’t foolish enough to think that we could just pull out. He knew that we needed to work with the Iraqis to reestablish their sovereignty, advising and assisting them during the transition.
It was this transition period that drove the impatient Americans over the edge and allowed cynicism to take root. It was easy for us to overlook the very real need for us to leave responsibly. And since most of us aren’t there, it’s easy for us to overlook the need to train the Iraqis so that they can maintain security. A draw down strategy that didn’t take these things into account would have been a disgraceful pander to his base. Thankfully, Obama governs like an adult and orchestrated Operation New Dawn in a way that Americans can be proud of, based as it was upon American ideals of democracy.
Recent polls reflect our current pessimism. In a June 2010 Newsweek Poll, we learn that 51% of the American people disapprove of the way Obama is handling the Iraq War. What’s particularly odd about this is that according to May 2010 CNN Poll, the majority of Americans do not favor this war, leading a logical person to question why, since we are leaving Iraq, the average American seemingly does not approve.
After all, 64% of Americans said they approved of Obama’s plan to get out of Iraq in this fall, leaving only 50,000 troops there, and this is exactly what we are doing.
Perhaps Americans, grown weary of the constant attack on hope, aren’t paying attention. Perhaps we’re tired: Tired of hearing nothing but bad news. Tired of struggling economically. Tired of the rabble rousing every time we try to get any kind of legislation to address the bleeding passed. We’re just plain tired. So tired that we’re missing the one flickering light at the end of the tunnel.
We want to put this part of this painful era behind us. Well, what we really want is for it to have never happened. But that’s the horrible part about electing bad leaders. We don’t get a re-do.
In less than thirty days, we will be out of Iraq save for the 50,000 troops we are leaving behind to help support the Iraqis through their transition back into power.
Currently, we’re not engaged in active combat in Iraq (although Northern Iraq is still a troubled area), but rather we are there in an “Advise and Assist” capacity. We are training the Iraqis to take over when we leave. We’re packing up our supplies (this is taking months, apparently it’s harder to pack up an army base than it is to move a household – go figure). We’re shipping them to Kuwait, from which the majority will continue to Afghanistan. We’re not even patrolling unless we’re called to assist the Iraqis.
We’re returning their bases to them and turning over many of our bases to them. In June 2009, U.S. Forces occupied 357 bases. U.S. Forces currently occupy 121 bases, and are expected to reduce that number to 94 bases by the end of August.
Our mission to train the Iraqis so that they can protect themselves from the warring factions within their own country has been more successful than we really had any reason to hope. We have even managed to get the warring factions of Sunni, Shi’ites and Kurds to sit down together. I can’t say their limited willingness to work together will be long-standing, given their centuries old feud. In fact, I wouldn’t bet on it. But it was a good effort on our part. It’s what we morally and ethically needed to do in order to extricate ourselves from this nightmare responsibly.
I hear tell some of our troops are bored, and even have time to go to a nearby resort to hang out. No one deserves that time more, I’m sure.
But this story doesn’t gibe with public sentiment at all, because the American citizens are sick of this war and we don’t want to hear about training Iraqis or packing up supplies. The only words we want to hear are: “The War is Over.”
This war was utter hell. It was wrong to be there. We shamed ourselves by betraying American values during this war. But this war is almost over, and we have President Obama’s cool head to thank for it. And to be completely accurate, in late 2007, former President Bush admitted that his Iraq strategy had failed, and he stated that as part of the new strategy, we needed more troops to train the Iraqis so that we could leave. President Obama’s strategy built upon this and was implemented with his usual long view approach and buttressed successfully by his very different approach to foreign policy.
They say we get the leaders we deserve. What does that say about Americans? We’ve gone from one of our worst Presidents to a man whom I truly believe will be remembered as one of our better Presidents for the sheer volume of legislation passed and promises kept if nothing else.
Regardless of whether we deserve him or not, we have been truly blessed to have President Obama shepherding us through these dark days. America has always gotten the President she needed when she most needed him. When she was on her last leg, when she was most beaten down, when all hope was seemingly lost, America has had the great fortune to elect the right leader. It seems we instinctively save ourselves when balancing on the precipice of disaster.
Operation New Dawn indeed. One day, Americans will be able to appreciate this President and this will be remembered very differently than it’s being experienced. In the meantime, take a deep breath and spend a few minutes meditating on the fact that it’s almost over. One Bush disaster almost over. Whatever you do, don’t count the remaining Bush disasters and for those few minutes, try not to think of Afghanistan. Sometimes we just need a little hope.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.