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Gil Mertz: U.S. troop withdrawal a good idea

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Posted: October 23, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: October 23, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Recently, President Barack Obama announced a nearly complete withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq by the end of the year.

“Today, I can report that as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home from Iraq at the end of this year,” Obama said. “After nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over. 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.”

As a conservative who initially supported the war effort, I must say that the decision to proceed with the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq is welcome news. I applaud Obama and his administration for taking this courageous step regardless of the political benefits or consequences. It’s time to end this chapter in American history.

We’ve all heard the dramatic words of Franklin Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a day that lived in infamy.

The attack was devastating, the enemy was clear and the act of war was warranted. Japan had indeed awakened a sleeping giant and America rose to the occasion. The goal of unconditional surrender was achieved within a few years.

The attack on 9/11 was just as devastating, but the enemy was not as clear. There was no country with boundaries that had attacked us, no enemies in uniforms and no clearly defined nation for which we could hold responsible. However, we needed an enemy because someone had to be held responsible for this travesty. Someone needed to be blamed. Someone had to pay.

I was among those who supported the decision to invade Iraq. It was a haven for terrorism, and every credible source of intelligence believed it had weapons of mass destruction. When all diplomatic efforts failed, I personally thought taking charge of the situation through our military was appropriate. However, after the weapons-of-mass-destruction issue was resolved, I’ve never understood our prolonged presence in Iraq.

The cost of this war is immeasurable. In hard numbers, we know that thousands of U.S. troops have given their lives.

These courageous souls have my undying respect, and there is nothing that can ever remove their role as true American heroes. They sacrificed their lives for others and, as the Bible says, “there is no greater love.”

In addition to those who have died or suffered injury from our U.S. military, nearly 140,000 civilians in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have also died. The number of displaced war refugees is now nearly 8 million. And in money, more than $3.2 trillion has been spent over the last 10 years on this war.

It’s time to end this war for America. I disagree with those who believe the president is doing this just to win votes for his re-election because there is just as much negative political fallout at risk as positive.

Whatever the motivation, it’s still a good idea which all Americans should embrace. We simply cannot continue to police terrorism around the world indefinitely or enforce our brand of democracy on a culture that doesn’t want it.

Most of all, we should do this for our troops and their families who have already given so much. They deserve resolution and should be welcomed home with great celebration.

While I have reservations about many of the president’s policies, I believe he is making the right decision to proceed in ending this war.

Gil Mertz is a Santa Clarita Valley resident.


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