Friday, June 6, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Australian military members began their exit from Iraq last Sunday–could a US withdrawal be far behind?

s one of President Bush’s staunchest allies in the ‘global war on terror’, Australia have stood shoulder to shoulder with the US and other coalition partners since the planning for the Iraq invasion in 2003. From January of that year, elements of that country’s military have been involved in one form or another in the pre-deployment, invasion and occupation phases inside Iraq but, as of June 1st, that support has come to an end. This shift is due to the recent defeat of conservative Australian prime minister John Howard and the installation of his long-time anti-war Labour opponent Kevin Rudd. One of his campaign pledges was to extract all of his nation’s combat troops from Iraq after he won his election (that happened last November) and he has fulfilled that promise less than 6 months after being installed into his leadership position.

Here is an Associated Press video report of the deactivation ceremony at Camp Terendak in the southern Iraqi city of Talil:

Although Australia’s numeric commitment to Iraq operations was minor when compared to the United States or Great Britain (at the height of the invasion, they provided approximately 2,000 troops and subsequently drew down to a cadre of 900 members with another 500 splitting duty between Iraq and Afghanistan), they have felt the anguish of death (three security contractors died in separate incidents in 2005 and last year) in this 5+ year stint. These returning troops are scheduled to return to Australia by the end of this month and a ‘welcome home’ parade is scheduled to be held in Brisbane on June 28th to honor their contributions.

Such a timetable could bode well for our nation’s troops after the November elections. If the Iraqi government were presented with the inevitable installation of a president who opposed the war that toppled their previous regime and wants to begin withdrawing troops as expeditiously as possible, perhaps we might start to see some of what President Bush has alluded to with his ’stand up, stand down’ stump speeches. While I don’t think we can get out as quickly as the Aussies will, we could begin to see a significant decrease in the number of US service personnel in combat roles by next summer–close to Rudd’s 6-month goal–if Barack Obama is elected to serve as our country’s next commander-in-chief.

Thank you, people of Australia, for coming to your senses and removing your nation’s ‘war prime minister’ via the ballot box. You join Afghanistan, Angola, Columbia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Slovakia, the Solomon Islands, Spain, Thailand, Tonga, Turkey and Uganda in the ranks of nations that have already decided that staying in Iraq was not in their own national interest (Poland is scheduled to have their troops out of that country by the end of this year). Maybe American voters will follow your example and thwart the continuation of this awful imperial legacy illegally thrust upon the people of Iraq and of the Middle East in the name of ‘freedom’.