July 13th, 2007
11:54 AM ET
9 years ago

What if the U.S. pulled out of Iraq?

Watch this week’s “What If?” segment.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - What if the U.S. were to pull its troops completely out of Iraq?

That’s the question on many minds especially as a slew of Republican senators begin questioning the White House about U.S. involvement. Some experts warn that chaos would ensue while others say that Iraq is already a lost cause.

CNN Special Correspondent Frank Sesno examines what might happen if the U.S. pulled out of Iraq today.

  • TIME.com: The Iraq Debate That Wasn't

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    soundoff (54 Responses)
    1. DJ, Los Angeles

      "Isn’t this Bush’s war as well DJ? If the UN had done it’s job in the first place we wouldnt be in Iraq."

      Say Dave...well in case you haven't noticed "Bush's War" doesn't seem to going to well 4 years and counting since he declared victory (before we even had Iraq stabilized).

      We already had UN weapon inspectors in Iraq and they didn't find anything.

      Guess what? There weren't any WMD.

      July 13, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
    2. Anonymous


      There is a lot of misinformation and lies about Iraq. Iraq is not about terrorists.

      Iraq is about a Civil War and other groups of insurgents whom simply just want to attack the US because they don't want us there.

      History has plenty of examples of uprisings against foreign occupiers. The term is usual partisan, insurgent or guerilla warfare. This does not necessarily mean they are terrorist.

      Nobody awarded the US as the world policemam allowed to start pre-emptive wars as Bush sees fit.

      Gulf War I we did have full UN support and a lot of allies to help. This time we did not and are paying the price.

      July 13, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
    3. Chris, Thorofare NJ

      Rumsfeld musing on a Democracies ability to wage war is quite revealing.

      The American people are more then willing to fight a long war, Mr Rumsfeld. The problem you have is that they will only fight a war they believe in.

      Thus, the central problem of a democracy is that the people refuse to die for a worthless cause. The founding fathers intended it that way, becasue they knew warmongers like the Bush cabinet would come eventually.

      July 13, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
    4. Ryan, New York, NY

      Marcus in Ashburn,
      How is the US going to get the snot beat out of it again? The only time that this country "gets the snot beat out of it" is when we're meddling in the affairs of other nations.

      What this country needs is a war on its own soil, so in the aftermath, we'll remember how awful it was and stop forcing the same on others. It'll never happen anytime soon, because where are opposing forces going to attack from? Mexico? Canada?

      And yes, Iraq will continue to be a disaster long after we leave. The war was an awful idea in the first place and how anyone couldn't see what would happen in 2003 is beyond my comprehension. I love people who try to validate the invasion by saying that Saddam was told to comply or prove that he destroyed weapons. What did you people expect him to do, provide certificates of destruction? Allow foreign troops to come in? How many of you would allow your own government to search your home just because they threatened you, let alone another government?

      Bush and his Republican followers have screwed this nation in a way that we'll never recover from in 50 years. When we have intel that shows some other country actually does have weapons that threatens us, everyone will just say, "Yeah, just like Iraq did, right?" and then we'll be hit. This war, as predicted, has created far more terrorists than we've killed, which we'll now have to endure in the future.

      The only way we have a chance is for us to go to the UN, swallow our pride and say, "We screwed up, help us fix this mess that we created before more people die." Then we'll look weak, and we can thank the heavy-handed hawks for it (though I'm sure that the Democrat who is elected will get blamed for the fallout that will inevitably happen).

      July 13, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
    5. JLE, Seattle

      Maybe we should listen to Thomas Jefferson for our future foreign policy?

      "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none"

      T. Jefferson

      I'm voting for Ron Paul.

      July 13, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
    6. Jack St.Paul MN

      Hey Fred from boston, you think they'll come together like the Palestinians have in Israel? Oh wait.

      C'mon buddy get real. The place is divided by religious and ethnic issues that are too deeply entrenched to be overcome by the U.S. leaving. The area is going to be in chaos for years. I understand you're upset about the war and agree that its a shitty situation but you've taken it a bit too far with that one. Screw your head back on my man.

      July 13, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
    7. James, San Gabriel CA

      No doubt Iraq would be completely overrun by Iraqis.

      July 13, 2007 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
    8. Anonymous

      I still think its funny...that the time period in which inspectors were not let in...that phase of time...everyone over looks...its like the Democraps were just expecting the IRaq's to have the WMDS out for everyone to see......lol....

      July 13, 2007 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
    9. Judith Ferren Errol NH

      Iraq is a country that has always fought between their three parties, until only one group ruled the country. This is not going to change even if the US were to stay thirty years there. Al Maliki is not a leader and has proven that sense he was elected. The best thing we could do in Iraq is sure the boarders and keep out the other fighters , let Iraqis fight it out for ruling power then get out of there....Iraq is a civil war now and we have no place in it... Chaney and Bush will just have to take the oil lost and possibly try to do some good here at home... haha...

      July 13, 2007 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
    10. Jason, Washington, DC

      If we leave Iraq, the next most powerful state actor will fill the vacuum: Iran. They will further empower the Shiites and the oil-sharing deal will immediately fall by the wayside. Sectarian conflict will ensue.

      This doesn't even take into account the 100,000+ Turkish troops on the Northern border of Iraq (Kurdistan).

      July 13, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
    11. Anonymous

      Should we stay in Iraq until 2012 then Neo-Cons?

      Let me get this straight...assuming the new Bush , Mayor Rudy wins or one of the other front-runner...the US stays in Iraq at least until 2012. That makes it 9 years.

      Vietnam we had 500,000 troops and it STILL didn't work.

      I am sick and tired of my hard-earned tax money be burned up to pay for a police occupation. The military has done as much as it can...we should not have try to enforce "our" way upon some 3rd world culture that doesn't even want us there.

      July 13, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
    12. Paul Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      You should be working on Afghanistan. Get the economics working there. start sharing with Iran on humanitarian issues. Leave Iraq with "Soft Borders",not a divided country & let Iraq decide what security they need. Then negoitiate peace deals for Lebanon & try to kick start a European style Economic Union.

      July 13, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
    13. Tim, Calgary, Alberta

      "Iraqi Freedom Fighters"??? You are delusional. These are not freedom fighters but people who want to eradicate freedom from the Iraqi vocabulary.

      July 14, 2007 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
    14. Joseph Jaramillo, Richardson, Texas

      If we were to pull of Iraq?

      1. Cause more Violence and Bloodshed In Iraq.

      2. Create a new Terrorist "Playground".

      3. Strain and eventully cause The Iraqi Parliamentary Democracy System to collapse.

      4. Make The Democrats Happy.

      I think if US was to pull out of Iraq, We should see what The UN has in plan, if The UN doesn't have a plan, Then we could do what we're doing in Afghanistan, Have NATO help out.

      I'd like to see The War end, but not this way, I think The UN should try help out, than stand by the sidelines.

      July 14, 2007 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
    15. Brian,Smithville, TX

      ok first, let me just tell whoever thinks liberals hate facts, can look at the fact that conservatives follow f@#king beliefs not facts. what with your knowledge of there being a blood bath, well no shit. but that is the way it has always been with our imperialistic "responsibilities", we see a country with unrest.. invade (unlike Iraq, though i'm sure good ol' boy Bushy will just "tell it like it is" to ya about it being that) get it to where their government steps up, leave, and wooo Oooh myyy gooodddnesss they have conflicts based on reconstruction purposes, .....nooo shit. which any flag waving American would know WE went through the same shit after our own TWO reconstructions following our revolutionary and civil wars (oops there goes a fact something us liberals LOVE). conservatives seem to BELIEVE this fact that it will be a bloodbath is what is going to hurt us in the end. wel in some ways it can hurt us. bu let me state this fact: you drop a penny on someones head from a rooftop... ouch that person got a litle thud to the head... drop a penny on someoneshead from the Empire States building it goes through that persons head... GET MY DRIFT!

      The Fact is people (not just us) have the free will, and decisions and opinions based on knowledge. if we want to gain support for the cause to fight of terrosits, then a war with no diplomatic resolutions, no support from the rest of the world because of our means, and only a military marshall law... then we are truly fools. all the rest of the world will see us for what we have done good and bad... but for what and why. Last time I checked we were supposed to be showing the Iraqis and the world that we are a good peaceful country and our system is the one to do it. If any of you out there think we can build a young democracy that is well behaved and terrorism is wrong by invasion and war, then it is a mixed message we are sending those people over there about terrorism and uneeded violence. sorry neo cons but we need to leave!!

      July 14, 2007 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
    16. Iconoclast, Houston, TX

      Obviously our being there isn't fixing things, and in fact galvanizes insurgents into action. The excuse "there will be chaos" is a nonstarter. There's BEEN chaos. We can't cure that; the Iraqis have to... and as long as we are there, we are hurting that cause in the short term. Time to vacate this Vietnam-in-the-making.

      July 14, 2007 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
    17. Iconoclast, Houston, TX

      "Typical liberal tatic, ignore facts, if all else fails resort to name calling. I guess next I’ll be a nazi too huh? It’s really sad that you on the left get so un-hinged you can even have a decent conversation without hurling insults"–Dave

      Here's an insult for ya, Davey: hypocrite. ; )

      July 14, 2007 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
    18. MCD, San Francisco, CA

      Dave in NC... you are wrong about the UN inspectors. They were in Iraq with complete freedom of movement... could go anywhere they wanted... couldn't find any weapons. Bush ordered them to leave 2 days before we invaded. Don't take my word for it... look it up on the internet!

      July 14, 2007 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
    19. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

      "I am sick and tired of my hard-earned tax money be burned up to pay for a police occupation. The military has done as much as it can…we should not have try to enforce “our” way upon some 3rd world culture that doesn’t even want us there."

      This is almost word for word my sentiment. Sadly, the problem is a lot bigger than that.

      Please admit the majority put yellow ribbons on their car and wanted the retaliation after 9/11. We were all there.

      What we got instead was a big TAR BABY. And now withdrawing may bring us more problems than staying. CNN and others are just starting to study that out. Kudos to them.

      Bush was wrong to lie about the reasons for staying on. The Democrats (and a few Republicans) are wrong to push for withdrawal without considering the consequences of the vacuum it will create. That needs to be looked at real carefully so that the second mistake isn't worst than the first.

      By the way, I looked up "Neo-con" on Wikipedia and very few people qualify for that label.

      July 14, 2007 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
    20. Tim Karl, Tempe, Arizona

      Just a few questions:

      How long did we stay in Japan after the war? How about Germany? How about South Korea?

      oh thats right...WE Still ARE in ALL OF TheSE country's!

      How many people died during the battle of gettysburg? How many people died during D-Day?

      Now look at the war in Iraq: what 5 years and ~4000 deaths? I would have to say we are doing a pretty freaking awesome job for being in a WAR!

      In all honesty do you seriously think that if we leave Iraq that they will all kiss and make up? Seriously people, use your brains instead of your political biasness. Think of the innocent civilians in Iraq that are dying by the hundreds due to foreign insurgency instead of being so pig headed about how many american deaths were in the past 5 years of war. Everyday in the news and on forums people go back and forth about this...so lets lay it out on the line:

      1. Whether you think going into Iraq was right or wrong, it doesnt matter, because we are there now.

      2. The main reason we are in this situation now is because we didnt go in with the right amount of force, if we had more troops initially we could have secured the borders properly to prevent foreign fighters entering.

      3. Innocent men, women, and children are dying everyday from attacks on marketplaces and public areas, not from attacks on US outposts, its a civil war that foreign fighters are fighting to separate the two factions of religion in Iraq for chaos, as the fighters thrive in chaos. Yet all of you can only think of is bush is wrong or bush is right, grow up people, you are not children fighting over a toy. These are peoples lives at stake, thousands of innocent lives. If the French never came to help us during the revolutionary war, we wouldn't be the United States now would we?

      4. Instead of focusing your anger on eachother over politics, how about put your time to better use, such as with your family and loved ones. imagine yourself in an iraqi civilians position, they fear for their lives everyday because foreign fighters are randomly killing them just to spread chaos.

      5. If we did an immediate withdrawl of all troops, it would be the most devistating decision in US history, as thousands of civilians would die.

      6. If we withdrawl immediately, do you seriously think the terrorists wont bring their attacks to US soil? Before we were in Iraq we were facing terrorist attacks...DoNT BE SO naive and think that everyone gets along and that world peace is coming, because it wont and never will, stop watching movies and open your eyes, its human nature to fight over what you want. You fought to get the women or man you love to be in love with you, instead its called courting, but its the same damn thing, welcome to being Human.

      7. we can go back and forth about this subject, however the democrats nor the republicans will ever call for a full immediate withdrawl, they both know that it is the wrong strategy.

      Heres what should be done:

      The american people should stop fighting with eachother, we are all american, so lets enjoy that while we can.

      Work together on a common solution that benefits both the US and the Iraqi people. A phased withdrawl, while the Iraqi government gets more control over its country would most likely be the best option. However even then, it will be like south korea, where we will leave troops there (roughly 30,000 i estimate) to maintain civil order and to protect the iraqi government from an all out attack, the same thing we do in korea.

      July 14, 2007 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
    21. JJ

      Bury your heads in the sand like you did before 9/11 and you'll all wake up (maybe) when the next attack occurs. This is bigger than Iraq. Running away with your tail down is just what the extremists are waiting for – and they're using hypocrites in the western media and weak left-wingers to get there...and it'll probably work! Thank goodness there's a man of courage and determination in the White House! Alas, after the next election, the extremists will have won and things will get worse fast. Then you can all look in shame in the mirror.

      July 14, 2007 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
    22. Tyler, Austin TX

      Who cares what happens to Iraqis? American troops are our #1 priority. There will always be death and mayhem in this world. There is no happy ending. As a former member of the military I am saying get out now.

      July 14, 2007 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
    23. Ret. Navy, KY

      This is misleading....
      OVER 1,000,000 Vietnames Died with in 5 years after our retreat. 1000,s died in small boats tring to leave. My P-3 Aircrew found one with 14 dead and 32 almost close when a USN Destoryer pulled then out of the water. This was 1980.

      ""The same thing that happened when we got thrown out of Vietnam, nothing. We are the ones who are creating the chaos, we are the terrorists. When we leave the Iraqi freedom fighters will come together and begin to start repairing the damage we have done. Same thing the Vietnamese did.

      Posted By Fred Boston, Ma """"

      Sorry Fred to bust you Balloon

      July 14, 2007 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
    24. Joe Winborn, Norfolk Virginia

      You know. Maybe I have been wearing rose colored glasses all along. How beautiful Iraq is going to be when our soldiers finish up what they are doing there. It would seem blasphemous in my eyes when I hear someone say that our soldiers are terrorists. Why? Well, our soldiers have spoken and want us to see what our media is having a hard time saying to us. Check out youtube . com Let me send you here... search on that website these very words...
      "Once Upon a Time in Mosul..." The future leaders of Iraq are in that video. Without education, there can be no leaders of Iraq. If you check what is being said in the media, they are getting some things right. 100's to nearly a thousand Iraqi's die every week because of the Iraqi insurgency. The insurgency is killing the citizens of Iraq, they are the ones killing the children. If the insurgents had the gall, they would only target the US forces and the rest of the nation states that are participating in this war. But the insurgents don't wish Iraq to be a nationstate. They don't wish to have a democracy. They don't wish the Iraqi people to be educated. Thats why they kill innocent children walking their way to school. And they kill innocent reporters working for the different media outlets because they don't want the world to be educated on what is happening over there. I think the media is trying to be fair in their broadcasts by showing the other side of the war. That which you will witness in the video I mentioned. I think the US warriors have spoken and it looks to me according to them, the children of Iraq deserve a future where they can go to school and become educated, for they are not terrorists. They know as well as I that the future leaders of Iraq are in the video they created for the world to see.

      July 14, 2007 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
    25. Curt, Bartlett,IL

      Pull out of Iraq:
      1. So far the administration has been wrong about this whole situation. What makes them think they are right about this?
      2. Rice, Roberts, Bush, and Cheney would look extremely stupid.
      3. The American Public would stop flipping the bill, $700 billion and counting. How's this going to be paid back? Is Bernanke going to forgive this debt? Who pays? Oh, yep, us.
      4. We would stop losing great Americans (our troops)at over 3,600 and counting.
      5. We would stop have American troops, over 25,000 and counting, coming home injured.
      6. Yes, the economy wouldn't look so good. We would have a lot of people unemployed and that won't due. It is a lot better than Americans dying and getting injured in a civil war.
      7. This appears real similar to the United States Independence. So we pull out and let them figure it out for themselves. One day we just showed up.
      8. This is an American Tragedy. Our entire Administration is responsible. Doing nothng – just letting troops get killed and injured. The outrage isn't loud enough yet.
      9. Oh, and has any other country in the Middle East stepped up to write a $700 billion check to pay for this?
      10. Leave Iraq now and they will be a better country (Vietnam).

      July 14, 2007 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
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