We should see conflict to the end

To the editor:

In 2002 George W. Bush asked for Congressional backing to use military force in Iraq. Twenty-eight Democrat senators voted to support this, including Harry Reid, Joe Biden, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. There was a bipartisan concern that Saddam Hussein was both oppressive to his people and was armed with WMDs, a threat to his neighbors and our allies. This fear was based on intelligence from the CIA.

The war began and soon after very few WMDs were found. Whether they were sent away before U.S. troops got there or never existed is up for debate, but the fact that we were the stabilizing power in Iraq is not. We maintained law and order, and our men and women fought and died to drive out terrorists and defend a democratically elected government.

Then in 2011, we left, completely withdrawing from the land we fought so hard to protect. Since then, the Islamic State has conquered roughly a quarter of Iraq and set up a quasi-country which they brutally rule, killing or persecuting Christians, Yadzis and other minority groups. They attract increasing numbers of fighters from around the world, and their strength is growing.

It may have been a mistake to enter Iraq but was also a mistake to leave to soon. When we invaded Iraq and toppled Sadaam Hussein, we owed the Iraqi people the help they needed to rebuild their nation. Long term, we must leave Iraq in the hands of a capable and just government chosen by its people, but we have not reached that point, and our leadership wasn’t willing to commit to effectively bring this about. Instead we ran and blamed past administrations for the current problems.

Real leaders take charge of the situation even if it is bad. They look to make the best of what they have. Barack Obama can still be this kind of leader. No matter what Bush did, our current president made a mistake withdrawing too quickly from the conflict, leaving an unsteady Iraqi government that was not yet able to withstand fanatics like ISIS. This puts the sacrifice of our servicemen and women at risk of being swept away. But if Obama acts quickly, he can crush ISIS by providing strong military assistance to the Iraqi government, including large numbers of troops on the ground if need be. He can send a strong message to ISIS that we will not tolerate barbaric terrorists to violently conquer and usurp standing and freely elected governments.

This would only be the beginning of a long road to stability in Iraq. But it is necessary and crucial that we act with strength and effectiveness now. If we were wrong in entering this war to begin with, we owe it to the Iraqi people and the more than 4,000 American servicemen and women who died in this conflict to see it through the end, and to not allow Iraq and the whole Middle East to cower under the black flag of the Islamic State.

Michael Schmiesing