I was in the White House Situation Room on the morning of March 19, 2003 when President George W. Bush gave the order to General Tommy Franks to commence Operation Iraqi Freedom. After months of sometimes heated discussion and intense preparation, the United States and its allies began the work of liberating the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
Last month President Barak Obama announced the United States military had accomplished its mission in Iraq and that we would be withdrawing all U.S. forces by the end of 2011. The announcement caught many of us by surprise. Certainly, our soldiers have fought courageously; and they and their families deserve our gratitude. Their service and sacrifice is beyond question. Whether the President's decision is the right one at this time, however, deserves closer examination.
President Bush envisioned a democratic state there; the first domino to fall in the transformation of the Middle East from a region of countries ruled by despots to one of states ruled by the will of the people.
As the war in Iraq progressed, President Bush envisioned a democratic state there; the first domino to fall in the transformation of the Middle East from a region of countries ruled by despots to one of states ruled by the will of the people. We hoped for an Iraqi government capable of securing the safety of the Iraqi people and providing basic services such as electricity and water. Additionally, we hoped for an ally on the war against terrorism, and a grateful government aligned with our interests.
We never planned for the American military to be in Iraq indefinitely. Although no one wanted the troops home more than President Bush, he understood the power of the United States to help provide freedom for the Iraqi people and the importance to U.S. interests of affording the new government sufficient time to learn how to govern and meet the needs of its people. We may not know with certainty for some time the effects of an American withdrawal this year, but I am concerned it may be premature, and give Iran, al Qaeda, and warring factions within Iraq an opening to undo the progress made by the Iraqi people to establish a democratic state.
Because I no longer receive classified briefings of the current security situation I do not know our government’s long-term assessment of a stable Iraq. I do know we have invested billions of dollars and almost 4,500 precious lives. For the sake of the Iraqi people and our entire military family, let us hope the President is right in his assessment that we have met our objectives and the mission has been completed.
Alberto R. Gonzales is the former United States Attorney General and the former Counsel to President George W. Bush. He is currently a visiting professor at Texas Tech University and a regular columnist for Fox News Latino.