President Obama should not bow to the Beltway voices urging him to keep U.S. troops longer in Iraq.

At a speech at West Point on Saturday, May 22, Obama said: “We are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer.” His statement, which the cadets greeted with applause, is a reaffirmation of his pledge to have all U.S. combat forces leave Iraq by Aug. 31. Any remaining armed forces are required to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 in accordance with the binding bilateral Security Agreement, also referred to as the Status of Forces Agreement.

But Washington pundits are still pushing Obama to delay or cancel the U.S. disengagement, calling on him to be “flexible” and take into consideration the recent spike of violence in Iraq. Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed and injured during the last few months in what seems to be an organized campaign to challenge U.S. plans.

While most Iraqis would agree that Iraq is still broken, delaying or canceling the U.S. troop removal will definitely not be seen as “flexibility,” but rather as a betrayal of promises. Iraqis believe that prolonging the military occupation will not fix what the occupation has damaged, and they don’t think that extending the U.S. intervention will protect them from other interventions. The vast majority of Iraqis see the U.S. military presence as a part of the problem, not the solution.

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Linking the U.S. withdrawal to conditions on the ground creates an equation by which further deterioration in Iraq will automatically lead to prolonging the U.S. military presence. Some of the current Iraqi ruling parties want the U.S. occupation to continue because they have been benefiting from it. Some regional players, including the Iranian government, do not want an independent and strong Iraq to re-emerge. And other groups, including Al Qaeda, would gladly see the United States stuck in the current quagmire, losing its blood, treasure and reputation.

Connecting the pullout to the prevalent situation would be an open invitation to those who seek an endless war to sabotage Iraq even further, and delaying it will send the wrong message to them. By contrast, adhering to the current time-based plan would pull the rug from under their feet and allow Iraqis to stabilize their nation, a process that may take many years but that cannot begin as long as Iraq’s sovereignty is breached by foreign interventions.

If the Obama administration reneges on its plans, it will effectively reward those responsible for the bloodshed and further embolden them. Such a decision would most likely have serious ramifications for the security of U.S. troops in Iraq, and will impede the security and political progress in the country.

And delaying the U.S. pullout will not only harm the U.S. image around the world, which Obama has been trying hard to improve, but it will also be the final blow to U.S. credibility in Iraq. The mere promise of a complete withdrawal has boosted Iraqi domestic politics and enhanced the U.S. perception in the country.

Unless Obama delivers on his promises, many of these achievements will be lost, and Iraq will be sent back to square one.

Raed Jarrar is an Iraq-born political analyst based in Washington, D.C. He is a political consultant for the American Friends Service Committee, and a senior fellow at Peace Action. He can be reached at

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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