On Leaving Iraq

Posted: December 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s over, the Iraq war is. It may be more honest to say that it stopped. A war is never really over. It stays with a country, combatants, family members who lost loved ones, or had them returned in damaged condition. The aftermath of wars continues for years, decades, until it fades into history. And that continuing is not just in the minds of those living with it after their return. It’s not just carved into war monuments and left there. No, it continues because of the actual costs, losses and suffering endured because of it. It continues when thoughts about that war – its purpose and place – are conflicted, unresolved. It’s not over, it’s just stopped.

So what kind of thoughts and feelings do I experience right now? It’s a mixture, like most people.

On the one hand I would have to say that I am relieved. I’m glad that many of our troops may be home by Christmas or shortly thereafter. I rejoice for the reunions that will be.

I carry sorrow for over 5,000 troops lost and over 100,000 Iraqis lost. I sorrow for those severely disabled in body or mind because of their service. I sorrow.

I hope for the best in Iraq but know that they will have to find and develop their own solutions internally. There are problems that are unfixable by outsiders. So it will be.

I am glad that the colossal outlay of expense – spread over eight years – will come to a close. It contributed to enormous financial strain on our economy.

I never did, nor do I now, consider this a just or justifiable war. We were led into it with false pretenses and misleading intelligence. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam and his totalitarian regime, though horrific, was not involved in terrorist activity toward our country. It was Saudis, not Iraqis, who piloted those planes into the twin towers and the Pentagon. Saddam would not countenance any challenge to his power or control – that especially included AlQaeda. Saddam was also a foil against Iran, cranky neighbors mollifying each others power in the region.

George Bush, Sr., decided not to beat the Iraqis all the way to Baghdad for a clear and simple reason which he articulated – because it would lead to occupation and occupation is a bad idea. Containment is one thing, occupation another. He chose the right course.

The war in Iraq did not end with the beginning shock and awe of American technological might. That was only the beginning. And it led, inevitably, to messy occupation, civil war among tribes, and the destabilization of the country. Because Iraq allowed for religious freedom under Saddam, Christians co-existed with Muslim neighbors without fear. After the invasion Christians became targeted as pro-Western. With churches bombed and businesses destroyed, Christians went into exile. Up to two-thirds of them fled to adjoining countries.

As a parallel to concerns about Iraq I consider our involvement in Afghanistan with the same concern and questions. The former lessons learned by the British and the Soviets were not learned by us, not yet. We will not, in the end, dominate that rugged, doggedly independent berg in the world. We will break ourselves on those mountains and caves. And in the end, we will leave, like so many others. We can’t control everything.

What are the lessons learned? There are many, if we will learn.

First of all we should never speak in a cavalier way about going to war, taking up arms or putting boots on the ground on foreign soil. Are there reasons to take up arms, to engage an enemy, to defend oneself, to even be proactive against enemies before they strike? Because I am not a pure pacifist, but a realist about human nature and its inclination to evil, I answer that yes, there are times to do so. But they should be rare, last resorts, proportional to the threat at hand, excluding civilians from suffering … all of the just war principles. Iraq did not satisfy those requirements, but I think we should try. And from a very self-serving point of view, we should spare ourselves unnecessary suffering and harm to military personnel that we all too easily put in harm’s way.

I actually hear politicos in certain quarters speaking of tromping into Iran in the same kind of way, a repeat performance of Iraq. They talk casually about this, with some excitement for a new enterprise. One war over requires a new conquest. How dangerous and destructive this thinking is.

Yes, the Iraq chapter is drawing to a close. I am happy for that. I remain unhappy that it ever happened. And I pray, really pray, that we do not enter another quagmire in the near or distant future.

  1. Menina says:

    Our own War Between the States is still a witness to what you say: just travel through the South and notice the Confederate flags. So many better options than war are usually out there (and too often ignored). And every casualty of war leaves grieving, angry, and sometimes revenge-seeking brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives and children. So the tragic consequences grow rather than diminish.
    Your prayers are mine as well.

  2. Vera Rowell says:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s