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U.S. Presence in Iraq Fans Flames

The U.S. is now spending $2 billion a week in Iraq.

Is there any doubt that the terrible violence we are now seeing in Lebanon is not connected at least tangentially to our involvement in the deteriorating events in Iraq and the United States' diminished standing?

Or any doubt that the ascension to power of an extremist in Iran who openly flaunts his country’s development of nuclear power is also not connected to the events in Iraq and our reduced status?

Or any doubt that the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, or the long-range ballistic missile tests in North Korea are both an off-shoot of the Iraq quagmire?

CLEARLY, ROGUE NATIONS that once feared our great military strength are flaunting our perceived weakness in Iraq as well as the fact that our military is extended about as far as it can go.

The costs of the Iraq war have been significant. To date, more than 2,500 brave American soldiers have died in Iraq. Almost 20,000 American soldiers have been severely injured, many returning home with limbs lost to roadside bombs.

And we continue to expend huge amounts of our national treasury on the Iraq mission, far exceeding the Administration’s original expectations. The U.S. is now spending $2 billion a week in Iraq, which is over $100 billion a year, an amount that could fund the entire Homeland Security budget twice, with money left over to provide healthcare coverage for every uninsured child in America.

Despite this massive infusion of American resources, the Iraqi economy remains stagnant and the provisional government is virtually helpless to provide for its citizens. Unemployment in the Iraq provinces ranges between 25-40 percent and poverty is widespread. Oil production, which makes up about 90 percent of the Iraqi revenues, remains well short of targeted goals. Electricity levels are far lower than pre-war production levels.

Despite the heroic work of our troops and the large amount of U.S. dollars spent, I believe that our military presence in Iraq is hindering Iraq’s ability to become a unified, sovereign nation. It does this primarily by fueling a hatred that inspires a growing insurgency of foreign jihadists and native insurgents bent on negating the fledgling government and turning Iraq into a radical Islamic state.

MAKE NO MISTAKE; Iraq is in a state of civil war. Iraqis are killing each other in unbelievable numbers, with our troops caught in the crossfire between insurgents, militias and innocent civilians.

At this point in the operation, redeployment of our troops and the active pursuit of diplomacy is the best option we have left. Redeployment will strip the foreign jihadists of their best recruiting tool — anger over the presence of U.S. troops on Arab soil — thus mitigating their reason for fighting in Iraq. This is the one factor that unites these disparate foreign terrorists and native insurgents and we must remove it for the violence to stop.

A redeployment of our troops will force those responsible for the growing sectarian violence to make a choice — will they thrust their country further into civil war or will they work together as Iraqis with the new Iraq government to secure an Iraqi-defined peace.

The United States cannot turn Iraq or any other country into a western-style democracy just because we want it to be one. Ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to decide their future. At this point, our continued presence is a detriment to that decision-making process. And it is putting our soldiers and our national security at risk. The time is now to redeploy our troops and to return Iraq to the Iraqis.

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D) represents Alexandria, Arlington, and parts of Fairfax County.