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This popular view holds despite a heavy increase in sectarian violence across Iraq, the specter of ethnic violence between Kurds and Arabs over disputed oil fields, and a belief by both Iraqi and US military commanders that Iraq’s security forces are not yet able to independently protect its borders from outside forces.
Ironically, that latter point has been the basis of one of the strongest arguments for a continued US military presence. Absent a significant US force, Iraq’s security forces remain unprepared to repel a conventional military, air or missile attack, most specifically one launched by Iran. Yet, the push to embrace Iran seems to indicate the Iraqis have little to fear from the Islamist Republic.
While that belief may well prove mistaken in the end, Iraqis certainly have something to fear presently from the al Qaeda insurgents operating within its borders. For months Iraq has been plagued by a series of insurgent bomb and gunfire attacks, assaults which have left scores killed and hundreds wounded. Last week six people were killed and 27 wounded in separate attacks in central and northern Iraq. In Baghdad over one weekend, five car-bomb explosions killed 18 and wounded 77.
Furthermore American military bases and personnel in Iraq are also coming under increased attacks from mortar-fire and bombings. US forces faced 162 attacks in April, up from 128 in March and 93 in February. As one American army spokesman said, “Various extremist groups and illegal militias have said they will increase attacks against US forces and they are trying to do that to claim credit for driving out our forces.”
Unfortunately, the line of people advocating an America withdrawal extends beyond Iraq’s border. While the Obama administration has offered to leave up to 12,000 troops behind, it isn’t pressing the issue with the Iraqis. Moreover, an increasing number of US lawmakers from both parties are less than eager to see the United States stay beyond 2011.
Adding to American unease has been Iraq’s own indecision over the issue, which has clearly frustrated some once ardent supporters. Senator Lindsey Graham summed the feeling up best when he said last month, if we can’t “work with the Iraqis to have 10,000 to 15,000 American troops in Iraq in 2012, Iraq could go to hell.”
In fact, the advancement of Iraq into Iran’s orbit may only increase that feeling. It’s one certainly borne by a large segment of American taxpayers who have seen the United States drain its treasure in defense of Iraqi freedom. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $709 billion for military and related activities, including training of Iraqi forces and diplomatic operations.
Yet far more important than the expenditure of tax dollars has been the cost in American blood. As Americans honor their service men and women on this Memorial Day, the meaning of those who made the ultimate sacrifice is not lost.
Unfortunately — if Iraq’s recent actions are any indication — the meaning of American sacrifice on its behalf is sadly lost on them.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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