Leaving Iraq was a noble gesture in 2011, something about half of Americans wanted after almost nine years of war there.
On Dec. 18 that year, headlines across the country read: Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq, Ending War. It was a time to quietly rejoice following the sobering deaths of almost 4,500 Americans.
Not everyone thought it was the right move. Today, history shows some who thought we should have left to avoid getting mired in another Vietnam, losing even more soldiers, while others believed the stability provided by U.S. troop presence in Iraq would be shattered.
It would seem returning will be just as controversial, although not everyone with a voice has weighed in yet. But it shouldn’t be. Using Navy F-18 fighter jets and Predator drones to halt the advance of Sunni militants was a wise decision, something we should all support.
Why? As Americans, we have a moral obligation to help people who are struggling. We are all wary of war, but do we want to leave 40,000 people to die on a hilltop?
If you haven’t been following this story, here’s a recap: Members of the Islamic State (ISIS) encircled about 40,000 people, mostly Yazidi women and children, a mile above sea level in what might have been the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. The Yazidis, members of Iraq’s oldest minority, feared being slaughtered, just as 500 had been brutally slain the week before. At one point, a Yazidi woman begged the “international community to ‘Save us! Save us!’ from Isis,” according to The Guardian.
The United States started bombing to clear a path to safety for the Yazidis. That move, along with dropping food, water and other supplies, has given some in the ethnic group time to escape to Syria. Others remain trapped.
In the middle of all that comes the power struggle in Iraqi’s government.
In Iraq, the president, currently Fouad Massoum, picks the prime minister. On Monday, Massoum picked Haider al-Abadi, a member of the Shiite Islamist Dawa Party like his predecessor, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The United States might have forced Massoum’s hand: Without picking a prime minister seen as more inclusive than Al-Maliki, the U.S. likely would have backed off on its support. The U.S. hopes Al-Abadi will reach a settlement with the Sunni population, according to news reports.
The U.S. has a history of helping others in distress around the world.
Look at Korea. A few days after North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, President Harry Truman sent troops, aided by the United Nations, to help the South Korean people. Three years later, an agreement was reached, ending “The Forgotten War.”
Before that, the U.S. helped liberate Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II. At the Buchenwald Concentration Camp alone, American forces liberated more than 20,000 prisoners in April 1945. They did the same at Dora-Mittelbau, Flossenburg, Dachau and Mauthausen.
America still is an exceptional nation with exceptional people, willing to help others in need. We should continue that gesture now with targeted, limited strikes, helping to prevent genocide of innocent men, women and children.
— From the Panama City News Herald