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Bill Press: Iraq, the sequel

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Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah. Their names sound so familiar, because it was only a few years ago that American soldiers won those cities back from the control of Islamic extremists.

Sadly, those same cities are back in the news today, as Islamic extremists, under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, take them back from an almost nonexistent Iraqi army. Samarra’s their next target. Then, it’s only a matter of days before they move on to Baghdad. Once Baghdad falls, Iraq is gone.

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In a panic, finally realizing he’s got a serious problem, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is begging the United States for military assistance to turn back the insurgents. Fortunately, President Obama has flatly dismissed sending American troops back into Iraq. Unfortunately, he’s seriously considering a range of other options, including airstrikes, which would also be a big mistake. We should not let ourselves be sucked into Iraq: The sequel.

Let’s face it. It’s now clearer than ever that the war in Iraq was a tragic mistake to begin with. We sacrificed 4,400 American lives. An estimated 200,000 Iraqis were killed. We spent trillions of dollars fighting the war, rebuilding Iraq and training the Iraqi army. For what? For nothing. At the first sight of the enemy, they threw down their arms (our arms) and ran away.

As Vice President Biden predicted long ago, Iraq will never be one democratic, pluralistic, unified country. Its sectarian divisions are too deep. In the 21st century, two-thirds of its population is still fighting over which one’s the rightful heir of Muhammad in the 7th century. Iraq will eventually break up into three countries: Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite. We might as well stand back and let it happen now.

How predictable, meanwhile, to see so many initial cheerleaders of the war in Iraq, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), now try to lay its failure on Obama, blaming him for creating a security vacuum in Iraq by pulling American troops out prematurely. 

No way. 

First, Iraq is not Barack Obama’s war. It’s George W. Bush’s war. He should never have ordered the invasion of Iraq in the first place. Second, maybe McCain forgets, Obama did want to leave residual troops in Iraq, but was blocked by al-Maliki, who refused to grant American troops legal immunity.

Failure of the Iraqi government rests squarely on the shoulders of the inept al-Maliki, who stubbornly ignored pleas from the United States to include Sunni leaders in his government. By sidelining Sunnis and forcing all-Shiite rule on Iraq, al-Maliki only exasperated sectarian differences, which have now exploded into full-scale, religious, civil war — a situation no American airstrikes could ever resolve.

We broke Iraq, but we cannot fix it. We have no choice but to gird ourselves for the inevitable. And not just in Iraq — the same chaos will follow, once we withdraw from Afghanistan.  

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.

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