Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Case Against A New War in Iraq
or
How short is your memory?

Some of us, as American citizens, have either an amazingly short memory, or a lust for bloodshed rivaling the most barbaric societies.  Pretty strong statement?  I agree.  Yet those were my exact thoughts after seeing a simple picture being posted by a number of my friends.  A “meme”.  It goes something like this: <Insert picture of past republican president> “If I were still president, ISIS would be WASWAS”.

Simple, right?  If a strong, republican president were in office, this terrorist organization would have already been snuffed out and the world would be safe for all.  Send enough troops, shed some blood, and done.

Hm.  Interesting.  When I look back on the war which preceded the rise of this particular sectarian group, I don’t see something as quick, simple and effective as “ISIS would be WASWAS”.  I remember the decade after 9/11 in which we were fighting in Iraq.  The cost was high.  Economically, emotionally and in lives… The cost was high.  Some people, possibly even a lot, would argue the results didn’t come anywhere close to justifying this nation’s losses.

I remember waiting in Balad, Iraq, for my ride home.  It was a dusty, yet muddy shithole with nothing but bad memories for me.  I’m sure not everyone had a terrible time there, but when I finally got the green light to leave the sandbox, only to arrive in Balad to discover my plane was grounded with no eta on parts… bad memories.  So close to going home.  So close to seeing my wife and infant daughter, yet a world away.  Every day I’d check in, but for a week the answer was the same.  I’d head back to the sweltering tent to pass another day, artillery pounding in the distance.  That’s a whole lot better than artillery pounding on me, by far.  For that, I’m grateful.

I, of course, did eventually find a flight home.  My little daughter was there, waiting.  When she saw me she spat and refused to look at me.  Who knew children so young could have such a visceral, powerful reaction to being left by mom or dad.  But I’ll agree with you - “War is Hell” and “Freedom isn’t Free”.  Sacrifices must be made.  Several years after I returned home I heard more news from Balad.  A friend who I dated briefly in high school lost her brother there after he sustained wounds from an improvised explosive device.

For all of you posting “ISIS would be WASWAS”, maybe you remember the war differently than I do.  I don’t recall things being that simple, or the cost being as cheap as hitting “like” on facebook.  I remember watching the news every day to see how many US servicemen and women were killed by an IED, or injured in a mortar attack.

2003 - 486 American military killed in Iraq.
2004 - 849 American military killed in Iraq.
2005 - 846 American military killed in Iraq.
2007 - 823 American military killed in Iraq.
2008 - 314 American military killed in Iraq.
2009 to 2014 - 269 American military killed in Iraq.

32,000 injured.

Don’t you remember?

I remember a tenuous, at best, stability paved in the blood of the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and children of this country.  A list of names with seemingly no end, as long as we stayed there.  A list of names, more than names, added to the wall of my remembrance… daily.  

Don’t you remember?

I can hear some responses now, spat out in a gruff voice filled with ire, “I remember 9/11!”  Don’t get me wrong.  I remember that too, and I volunteered to go and fight as quickly as the next person.  My blood boiled and all I saw was red!  Being the intelligent person I know you are, and knowing what you know now, I find it hard to believe you can defend the connection between the government of Saddam Hussein and 9/11.  But that’s a debate for another time.

How many of America’s sons and daughters are you willing to sacrifice to make ISIS a WASWAS?  Better yet, what guarantee can you make that once this high price is paid, the next WASWAS won’t come into existence?

To intelligently answer that question you’ll have to delve into your knowledge of the region and some of its religious sects.  Quick, without looking it up on the internet, who are the Sunnis?  Who are the Shia?  Why is there such animosity between the extremes of each?  What is ISIS?  Have there ever been similar sectarian groups in the region with similar sectarian goals?  I’m no scholar of the middle east or of the small number of extremists within the muslim faith, but what I do know is there has been a rift in the religion which has been seized upon by radical factions of each side, and this was true centuries before the United States existed.

It hasn’t worked in a thousand years, but maybe this time, by killing as many “extremists” as we can, and with the loss of enough American life, we can bridge this rift created so long ago.  My guess is we might be able to neutralize enough of the leaders to cause the rest to scatter, for a short time.  Nothing more.

NOTE:  I was in the Army.  My father is retired Army, as was his father before him.  I met my wife in the Army, and her father is a retired Colonel.  I’m in no way belittling the plight of the American soldier.  On the contrary!  Their lives are too precious to throw at a problem we have yet to even clearly define.