The most fervent opponents of the Iraq war didn’t use the withdrawal of combat troops this week to declare “mission accomplished.”
Anti-war activists have been clamoring for U.S. troops to leave Iraq since the conflict began in 2003. Nonetheless, when the last combat brigade left this week, there was little celebration among the war’s critics.
The muted reaction showed just how much the passions around the Iraq war have cooled in recent years. It also reflected the shift in strategy from anti-war activists, who have mostly turned their attention to the fighting in Afghanistan.
While congressional leaders issued statements marking the departure of the final combat brigade, there were no grand pronouncements from the likes of Cindy Sheehan, a longtime leader of the antiwar movement.
The website of Gold Star Families for Peace, the anti-war group Sheehan co-founded, didn’t mention Thursday’s milestone — though the site also hasn’t been updated in nearly a year and a half.
MoveOn.org, another prominent liberal war opponent, was also silent.
The national campaign coordinator for Code Pink, Dana Balicki, initially could not recall when the group had last organized a protest on Iraq. She said Code Pink had organized events around the anniversary of the invasion in March, and she added that its attempts in recent months to disrupt the book tour of Republican strategist Karl Rove were tied to his involvement in launching the war.
Balicki called the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq “a baby step,” but said Code Pink and the anti-war movement could claim credit for framing the debate that dominated the elections in 2006 and the Democratic presidential primary in 2008.
“It was the success of the anti-war that pushed the issue,”
She noted that the group hounded then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 over her initial support for the war, aiding the ascent of Obama to the White House.
“We take some credit for [Clinton] not being the Democratic nominee,” Balicki said.
Code Pink continues to push for a complete withdrawal of American forces and contractors from Iraq, as well as the closure of all U.S. bases in the country.
“It’s a partial success. It’s a partial withdrawal,” Balicki said of the limited drawdown.
She criticized Obama for authorizing a build-up of U.S. civilians in Iraq, including thousands of private contractors. “[Obama’s] keeping a promise, and he’s creating a whole new debacle,” Balicki said.