End of combat phase does not end problems

  Start making the welcome banners, prepare the victory parade and start baking those red, white and blue cookies because, as of Aug. 31, the combat phase in Iraq is over! There’s only one catch: Our troops won’t be coming home until 2011’s end, meaning they won’t be safely back in the states for an additional year after “operations have ended.” The victory cookies may be getting cold by then. Yet all of these truths lie hidden under more congratulatory handshaking and back-patting than one might see from the winning team at the end of your average baseball game. Whether it is Obama claiming that “we have met our responsibility” or Gen. Ray Odierno’s quip that “hope has replaced despair” upon leaving his Iraqi command post, it is clear that both the military and the government are trying to play up this supposed “transition,” which in effect only means that our guys can’t shoot first anymore. The official change means that instead of undertaking combat operations, troops will be limited to defense posts and security patrols, all while training an Iraqi security force, which by most accounts seems to be more than a year away from being able to take full control. That seems like a definite improvement to me, but these claims of success and “met responsibility” are most definitely premature, not to mention misleading to the American public. The question I have is: What happens if we are ready to leave once and for all and the Iraqi security force is not ready? Unreasonable deadlines only lead to more deliberation. It appears the Obama administration is simply trying to create a good aura around the present and future American involvement in Iraq. While it is not Obama’s war, I find myself resenting his audacity to claim that he is making a difference in a conflict that has more or less been a stagnant drain on our economy, not to mention a steady loss of American life, for nearly a decade. On Sept. 7, CNN reported that two U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, not two weeks removed from the “end of combat.” In this light, it seems ludicrous to conclude that our responsibilities have been met when our soldiers are still dying for this confused cause and the goal of training the Iraqi military is far from complete. To me, this hearkens back to the capture of Saddam Hussein, to which George W. Bush declared with his trademark smirk: “Mission accomplished.” Only this time, nothing actually happened to feel accomplished about, and 50,000 soldiers are still stuck in Iraq doing more or less the same thing they have been doing since Hussein’s capture. If the Obama administration and the military are so convinced that we’ve won, then why not remove more troops immediately? How many soldiers does it take to teach another army how to protect themselves? Or, if more action need be taken despite these claims of success, why not finish the job? Either way, some sort of measurable action is better than this mire of futility our soldiers have been stuck in for years now. While we are back home eating our victory cookies with Obama, they are the ones still out there — fighting and dying just as before.