On every level and from every perspective — from pure national interest to the purely moral — the decision by the Obama administration and the Democratic party to withdraw American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is indefensible.
Let’s begin with Iraq.
When the last U.S. combat troops departed Iraq in December 2011, they left behind a defeated al-Qaeda and an Iraq where traditional rivals Sunni and Shiite Muslims were sharing power in the world’s only Arab democracy.
Two years later, al-Qaeda has seized major cities where hundreds of U.S. troops died while fighting alongside their Iraqi brethren. The population once freed by the U.S.-Iraqi alliance has now watched those same jihadist insurgents return to command the streets and impose their will.
As a result of the United States’ withdrawing its troops at the end of 2011:
In 2013, 7,818 Iraqi civilians were killed, higher than the 2008 toll of 6,787 (United Nations figures). In 2010, there were approximately ten car bombs per month; in 2013, there was an average of 71.
At great expenditure in money, lives, and limbs, the United States had defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq. American troops had turned such terrorist-dominated cities as Fallujah and Ramadi into relatively peaceful cities governed by pro-government, anti-al-Qaeda Sunnis. And al-Qaeda had been handed its greatest defeat.
In 2008 the American people elected as president a man dedicated to bringing the troops home.
Discussing Iraq last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “The president made a commitment to end the war in Iraq. He fulfilled that commitment.” The language Mr. Carney used is instructive. The president made a commitment “to end the war.”
That is how Democrats see abandoning countries to mass death: The “war ends.”
That is the amoral and provincial perspective of the Democrats. All the death, torture, and fighting that takes place because Americans have withdrawn doesn’t really matter. For the Democrats and others on the left — the self-proclaimed compassionate folks — the amount of suffering caused by America’s withdrawing its troops is just not important.
This began with the withdrawal from Vietnam. By 1972, when the Democratic party nominated George McGovern, it had, for the first time, ceased being a liberal party. It had been taken over by the Left, and remains so until this day.
Forced by the Democrat-controlled Congress, the United States abandoned Vietnam in 1975. On April 30 of that year, the last American helicopter left Saigon, leaving our Vietnamese allies to be “reeducated,” tortured, and murdered — and all the Vietnamese to be enslaved by a Stalinist Communist regime.
After America left Vietnam, about 2 million South Vietnamese were sent to reeducation camps, of whom about 165,000 died; between 100,000 and 200,000 were executed; 50,000 died performing hard labor in “New Economic Zones;” and another 200,000 to 400,000 Vietnamese died fleeing Vietnam (the “Boat People”).
The same month the last American left Vietnam, the Communist Khmer Rouge (“Red Cambodians”) under Pol Pot took over Cambodia and proceeded to murder about 2 million, or about one out of every three or four Cambodians.
Eight months after the Americans left Vietnam, Communists took over Laos and then proceeded — with the help of the Vietnamese Communists — to engage in genocide against the Hmong population.
Meanwhile, about 3 million additional people fled Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
But for the Left, the “war ended.”
Having lived through all that, I recall only silence from previously vociferous anti-war protesters about the mass murders that followed the American withdrawal from Vietnam. The campuses were quiet, the intellectuals were quiet, the Democratic party was quiet.
We are reliving that now as the Left and its political party abandon Iraq and soon Afghanistan. The amount of death and human suffering that will follow in each country means nothing to the Left and the Democratic party (and, to be fair, to the Libertarian party as well) — so long as there is no American involvement.
And the most amazing aspect of all this is that the Left and the Democrats are certain that they are the moral and compassionate ones.
But there is one difference this time: In all the previous abandonments of allies, only the benighted allies suffered the consequences. This time, with a victorious al-Qaeda in Iraq and Taliban in Afghanistan, we will, too.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.