The only plausible reason for keeping American troops in Iraq is to protect the democratic transformation that President Bush seized upon as a rationale for the invasion after his claims about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be fictitious. If that transformation is now allowed to run off the rails, the new rationale could prove to be as hollow as the original one.
I've already provided a link-rich refutation of this revisionist history, and this claim that democratic transformation was some sort of new rationalization is, not to put too fine a point on it, an out-and-out lie, readily fact-checkable and in fact already fact-checked, that the Times should be ashamed of.
What's more, the Times editorial board should be very careful not to confuse "wrong" with "fictitious," given its miserable performance on the war.
UPDATE: Reader Greg Wallace notes that The New York Times editorial board apparently doesn't even read its own earlier work. Like, say, this from February 27, 2003:
President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or reducing the threat of terror to the United States, Mr. Bush talked about establishing a ''free and peaceful Iraq''...
Sorry, but this is just a pathetic performance by the Times, and warrants a correction. And an apology.