Operation Selective Memory

By Bill Maher

So far in 2015 only one American soldier has died in Iraq. In 2014, there were three. The year before that there was only one. 

Now let’s take a look at the middle of George Bush’s presidency: in 2004, there were 849 American soldiers killed in Iraq. In 2005, 846. In 2006, 823. 

Of the 4490 American soldiers killed in Iraq, only 268 came during the Obama presidency; 94 percent are on Bush’s watch. And the reason is clear: because Obama pulled the combat troops out of Iraq. All of them. 

Whenever Bush or Cheney or McCain or someone else on the right talks about the chaos that has ensued since we left Iraq, liberals automatically go to, “Well, you caused it!” And they did. Republicans have a bit of a case of selective memory when it comes to Iraq. And when I say “a bit” I mean “clinically diagnosable.”  

But liberals also shouldn’t run from reality. Is Iraq more unstable because we left the country? Yes, it is. ISIS would not be running as free in Iraq had we maintained a troop presence there. Of course, Iraq wouldn’t look like Vermont, but it wouldn’t be quite the epic disaster we see today. It would be a high-grade disaster, much like it was when we pulled out. Because no matter what we like to think, America’s capacity to use its military to affect positive change in the Middle East is fairly limited. And for evidence of that you can look back at, oh, every time we’ve tried it. If we stayed for another three years and then left, we’d likely have the same result.

But here’s the tradeoff for increased instability in Iraq: lots of Americans aren’t being killed and maimed. We’re also not spending hundreds of millions of dollars a week to maintain a troop presence there. Is Iraq less stable? Yes, it is. Would I like try the Republican alternative of stationing 20,000 (or more) troops in Iraq in perpetuity? No, I wouldn’t. I like it when American soldiers aren’t being killed by the hundreds in order to barely keep a lid on a sectarian bloodbath that has been brewing since long before John McCain was born.