It is a pleasure to be here. Let me say that, despite all the places I have traveled, Iraq has been my obsession over the last four years, with many trips there. I can’t think of a more important topic to be discussing than the question of morality and withdrawal from Iraq.
I believe that there are many people who may feel that we are going nowhere in security terms in Iraq; they can see no light at the end of the tunnel. And yet, the moral issue affects how they think.
On the question of “What do we owe Iraqis? Does the justice (or injustice) of the intervention affect what we should do now?” Does 1991 — and I can tell you that I was down in south Iraq and saw what Saddam did there when we let him do it — does that affect the debate? Does the gassing of Haladja, where I have also been? Is staying on imperialism? What is the responsibility of a nation that not just takes down a ruler but takes down a structure and leaves such a fragmented system that there is no clear leadership waiting to lead the country, and if we leave, a civil war might become much worse? What is the responsibility when you don’t know whether staying on will do more than simply plug the dyke, when you don’t know for sure if you will ever be able to get out; but on the other hand, if you leave, things will become worse?
And what is the responsibility of the individual citizen in all of this, and the soldier? One of the most interesting moral debates going on during this war has been the debate among military people themselves. Some of you might have read the book Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster, a colonel who is about to go back for his second tour, about what is the responsibility of soldiers for speaking out.
So, all in all, I think that this is a crucially important topic.
Peggy Steinfels showed me a quote before I came on, and I think it is really relevant, by Anthony Cordesman from CSIS. He said: “The U.S. will ultimately be judged far more by how it leaves Iraq and what it leaves behind than how it entered.”
To read the Q and A session, click here.
Trudy Rubin is the foreign affairs columnist of the Philadelphia Inquirer.