American Friends Service Committee Welcomes President's Plan to End the Iraq Occupation

The American Friends Service Committee welcomes President's Obama's new direction in Iraq policy. Last week, President Obama stated for the first time his intention to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq. The President pledged not only to withdraw combat troops by the summer of 2010, but also to bring the rest of our troops home by the end of 2011.

We have struggled since the beginning of the occupation with the role of U.S. forces in Iraq. Our faith and values tell us that military solutions are always wrong, but we also heard the fears of many Iraqis that a chaotic and unilateral withdrawal of troops might further destabilize Iraq and increase the danger to civilians.

We support President Obama's plan for a responsible and complete withdrawal that starts immediately, and we commend his commitment to honor the December 31, 2011 deadline agreed upon in the U.S.-Iraqi bilateral withdrawal agreement signed last year.

The AFSC believes there is an opportunity for the Obama administration to gather U.S. congressional support for ending the Iraq war by allowing greater legislative oversight of the development of a bi-lateral plan for complete withdrawal.   Last year, the AFSC sponsored meetings between members of the U.S. Congress and the Iraqi Parliament to facilitate dialogue between the two legislative bodies.

On March 20, 2003, at the outbreak of the invasion, a Statement from Leaders of Friends Organizations in the U.S. Regarding the War in Iraq, warned

"This is a choice we know will have enormous and tragic consequences — many as yet unimagined — for the Iraqi people, for our own nation, and for the world. It is a choice we believe was unnecessary, immoral, and unwise, especially since it was taken before all the nonviolent and diplomatic alternatives were exhausted; indeed, before some were even explored."

Six years later, as many as one million Iraqis have been killed under this occupation, and another five million have lost their homes, according to credible estimates. More than 4,000 U.S. troops have been killed, and other hundreds of thousands have come back with physical and mental injuries.

We believe that the occupation of Iraq has been counter-productive and wrong. It has harmed both the U.S. and Iraqi people, and it has made our world more violent and unsafe.

The complete withdrawal of troops is an important first step to improving the lives of all Iraqis.  Next steps for the U.S. should include continued and creative international diplomacy and substantial long-term funding for humanitarian relief and Iraqi-led reconstruction efforts.  These steps strengthen the prospects for national reconciliation and reconstruction by fulfilling Iraqis' needs and hopes.  Even after U.S. and Coalition forces leave the country, the U.S. has a continuing moral responsibility to all Iraqis.