Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shock and awe gone wrong

The Iraq War began with shock and awe on March 19, 2003. It ended officially on Dec. 18, 2011, not with a bang but a whimper, and was viewed by most Americans as endless and pointless.

Sen. John McCain can call for further involvement all he wants. The nation is relieved it is over and done with. We will not turn back.

The war began with the craziness of neoconservatives, including Vice-President Dick Cheney in his alternate reality, seeing weapons of mass destruction where there were no weapons and yellow cake uranium from Niger where there was no yellow cake. The only thing in Iraq was Saddam Hussein, a raving, murderous tin-pot dictator despised by his own people on whom we obsessed. Even after his death, the war continued with less and less reason for troops to be there.

We have spent a trillion dollars. The U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction reports that $6.6 billion just mysteriously disappeared. The war went on longer than our involvement in World War II. It ended with 82 percent of Iraqis opposed to the presence of American troops.

The cost of any war is paid in far more than dollars. The U.S. lost 4,480 killed and 32,000 seriously wounded. The Iraqis lost far higher numbers.

The severely injured, those who have seen too much and done too much, and their families will continue to pay the price of this war. As we all know now, post-traumatic stress disorder causes sufferers to relive all the terror time after time. Traumatic brain injuries end life as sufferers knew it. All combatants in a war zone are never the same as they were before their deployments.

But the war is over and it is past time to really welcome all our fighting men and women home. We must not forget what they are facing, or step away from what we owe them and their families. They sacrificed for us because most of us had no intention of joining up, nor of even taxing ourselves to pay for what we were asking them to do.

Most of us Americans have engaged in the cheapest form of patriotism. Wars are always paid for in more than dollars and more than prestige lost. They are paid for in flesh and blood. Gen. Sherman said "war is hell." There will always be a hellish war somewhere, just not one worth fighting and dying for.

It never was worth it in Iraq. We can only hope that we might learn a central lesson that going to war should never, never be undertaken lightly. Further, when we want others to fight for us and we are unwilling to pay for them to do so, there is something seriously wrong at the root of the endeavor.

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