Did Angelina Jolie Just Call for US to 'Stay in Iraq'?

February 28th, 2008 10:36 PM

In a recent op-ed published in the Washington Post, an unusual call for the USA to stay in Iraq rang out with pleas for the US to commit even more money and resources to help rebuild that war torn nation. Published under the byline of Angelina Jolie, the piece said that, "we have finally reached a point where humanitarian assistance, from us and others, can have an impact." This editorial is unusual because the Washington Post is usually filled with tales of how we have failed in Iraq and how we should just get out, but here is this one saying we are now at a place where leaving would be the worst thing we could do. One wonders if this article will find the name of Angelina Jolie used as an epithet by the get-out-now, anti-war set from among the netrooters and the MSM? Or will her celebrity and long standing interest in humanitarian efforts give her cover with the same sort of people?

What ever treatment we'll see meted out by the far left to the Hollywood star whose name graces this interesting piece, the fact that a call has been made to stay in Iraq by someone other than the conservative movement here is interesting if not amazing. It strikes a little heard note of optimism in news coverage that usually focuses only on the so-called failures of US forces in Iraq.

It should first be noted that this piece assumes the surge has worked. A few lines are also devoted to the feelings our troops have that the efforts in Iraq are neither fruitless or finished.

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

While it is certainly gratifying that this piece seriously calls for renewed commitment in Iraq, some of the assumptions made in the piece with Jolie's byline are a bit overheated. In one part, the article claims that the "humanitarian crisis has not improved" in Iraq, but this is clearly not completely true.

In January, for instance, Reuters reported that the civilian death toll in Iraq is 76 percent lower than one year prior. This falling rate of violence is directly due to the two-fold approach implemented by General David Petraeus' surge efforts and the increase in support by native Iraqi police agencies enhanced to support our own efforts. The Iraqi armed forces would also not have been possible without the increased support of the Iraqi people themselves. Clearly, things have gotten a lot better.

There is also a somewhat misleading sentiment expressed in this piece. It seems to imply that Iraqi refugees are poised to return home, but are not yet doing so. Without saying it directly, the inference is that Iraqis who've fled their native land have still not returned. Saying, "We still don't know exactly how many Iraqis have fled their homes, where they've all gone, or how they're managing to survive," and that Iraq isn't "ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people," the piece seems to be saying we need to be ready when they do return.

But, many reports have already been seen stating that Iraqis are returning home and in droves. As far back as last November a series of reports came out revealing the steady and increasing stream of returning refugees. For instance, the BBC said in November that thousands are returning.

An estimated 1,000 people a day are returning across Iraq's borders having previously moved abroad to escape the violence, Iraqi authorities say... Most of the returnees are coming from Syria - and very few from Jordan, where better-off refugees tended to go.

The Timesonline also reported that "hundreds of thousands" are returning and that this fact "represents a vote of confidence in Iraq."

The homecoming is not an isolated development. The security situation in Baghdad, while far from totally peaceful, has improved substantially in the past few months, with civilian fatalities falling by three quarters since the early summer. This has been reflected on the streets with markets, clubs and restaurants that had been closed for months, especially at night, now reopening.

Even the AP, notorious for its dour outlook on the situation in Iraq, said refugees are returning in "dramatic" numbers.

BAGHDAD (AP) - In a dramatic turnaround, more than 3,000 Iraqi families driven out of their Baghdad neighborhoods have returned to their homes in the past three months as sectarian violence has dropped, the government said Saturday.

So, far from wondering when the returning Iraqis will begin their journeys home, the time has already come and refugees have been returning for some time.

Something else should be noted here. This UN article asks for the US to enlarge its financial burden to alleviate this broadening crisis.

What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq.

But, the US is yet the single largest donor to UNHCR to date. The piece rightly, but too briefly, calls on the entire international community to come to Iraq's aid, but it should also mention what we are already doing so as not to mislead readers into wondering what it is that we are doing now. It is lamentable that this piece did not take more pains than it did to impress upon other nations that they need to step up to the plate, too.

It is also hard not to be skeptical of the UN and its various appendages what with all the corruption, waste and the many scandals so commonly associated with that problematic organization.

Still, these quibbles aside, this piece should be lauded for its far more sunny outlook than we are used to seeing in the MSM. That it seems to assume the possibilities that we have achieved a victory that we can now expect to exploit is a welcome breath of fresh air. It is commendatory that, instead of proclaiming that all is lost and we should tuck our tail between our legs and run home, this piece recommends that we recommit ourselves to freedom and liberty in Iraq.

Quibbles or no, the last line of the piece is important and should be said in every paper and on every TV News cast.

It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

Well said. We are doing great and good things in Iraq. Perhaps with this piece we are seeing a little ray of sunlight peaking through the MSM's assumptions that all has been lost in Iraq? We can certainly hope so, at least.