Monday, March 9, 2009

Where Art Thou, O Prince?

Did we kiss a toad with no princely outcome, peace lovers? I clearly remember Barack Obama saying "troops out of Iraq within 16 months"... which by my calculation, if we start counting on his first full day as President, would be June of next year. Ten days ago the President gave us a revised time line for withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq - August of next year. Okay, I can give him an extra two months to make good on his promise. But can I abide the ace he pulled out of his shirt sleeve? "Support" troops will stay behind? 35,000-50,000 of them. Those Americans will stay in Iraq in the spirit of "training, equipping, and advising Iraqi security forces." So says the President. Where, my prince, is the promised surge of diplomacy and humanitarian aid in Iraq? Surely we do not expect 18-25 year olds who've been trained to kill people to serve in this capacity, do we? Ultimately, says the President, we'll be completely the heck out of the Fertile Crescent by December 31, 2011 - which, actually, is just fulfilling a "Status of Forces" deal that George W. Bush worked out for us before he punched out. Can you tell I am struggling with feeling a bit betrayed? This is the President for whom I pondered driving straight to Washington D.C. on November 5, 2008 to sign up for whatever team would stand between him and a bullet. This is the President for whom I spent 5 days in the bowels of New Mexico, stretching my introverted self to the absolute max knocking on door after Republican door to sing his song of "the change we need." This is the President to whom I pledged no-peace-at-the-family-Thanksgiving-table allegiance. And war is my big issue. I am not alone in this quandary. Some of my favorite peace buddies are feeling the same way. Another Mother for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action are all calling for a quicker end to the illegal, immoral military occupation of Iraq. These groups are also disappointed, as I am, with the escalation of war in Afghanistan. Obama was to be our prince of peace. I claim no expertise on military strategies. I have been clinging to hope and trying to be patient on this subject. I am encouraged to hear our president say things like:
"Long term solutions (in Iraq) must be political, not military."
"The United States pursues no claim to your (Iraqi) territory or resources."
And I am well aware that he is working with people like Robert Gates, the very Secretary of Defense who a couple of reporters at the Washington Post have dubbed the US Defiance Secretary. And I know he is trying to avoid a neocon coup up there in Washington, D.C...where he desperately needs some Capitol Hill kum-ba-ya moments to get through the sludge left behind by the political processes of the last 8 years. Yesterday we heard 12,000 troops will come home from Iraq over the next 6 months, which pretty much takes us to the end of 2009. That leaves 128,000 kids still standing between Iraqi security forces and sectarian suicide bombers. All is not well on that front - twenty-eight people died in one of those attacks in Baghdad Sunday. Twenty-nine have been killed today. Many of our kids will be there until the end of 2011. Almost three years away. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan... Oh, my.
"We will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned."
That's what President Obama said ten days ago. I pray the honor he intends is not the Purple Heart. "Before one more mother's child is lost..." Peace.

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