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Calling the invasion and slaughter that followed a mistake papers over the lies that took us to Iraq. This assessment of the war as mistake is coming mostly from well-intentioned people, some of whom spoke out against the war before it began and every year it dragged on. It may seem like a proper retort to critics of Obama (who inherited that war rather than started it). But it feeds a dangerous myth.

A mistake is not putting enough garlic in the minestrone, taking the wrong exit, typing the wrong key, falling prey to an accident.

Invading Iraq was not a friggin’ mistake. Not an accident. Not some foreign policy mishap.

The guys in charge carried out a coldly though ineptly calculated act. An act made with the intention of privatizing Iraq and using that country as a springboard to other Middle Eastern targets, most especially Iran. They led a murderous, perfidious end run around international law founded on a dubious “preventive” military doctrine piggybacked on the nation’s rage over the 9/11 attacks. An imperial, morally corrupt war. They ramrodded it past the objections of those in and out of Congress who challenged the fabricated claims of administration advisers who had been looking for an excuse to take out Saddam Hussein years before the U.S. Supreme Court plunked George W. Bush into the Oval Office.

The traditional media did not make a mistake either. They misled their audiences through sloppiness and laziness because it was easier and better for ratings than for them actually to do their jobs. For the worst of them, the misleading was deliberate. They fed us disinformation. Lapdogs instead of watchdogs.

Meteor Blades, “Stop pretending the invasion of Iraq was a ‘mistake.’ It lets the liars who launched it off the hook“, Daily Kos. 

Read the linked article above and decide for yourself. Personally, I think it makes a compelling case, although even if it were genuine ineptitude, there’d be just as much culpability given the horrific scale of the consequences.

Don’t Call The Iraq War A Mistake

A Timeline of the Iraq War

Unbeknowst to most Americans, today is the 10th anniversary of the launching of the Iraq War. In recognition of this sober and increasingly forgotten observance, ThinkProgress has published a great timeline of the Iraq War that recounts all of the details of this understated conflict from beginning to end (including its somber consequences).

It’s remarkable how far removed most of us are from that conflict, even a decade later. Even I’ve had to remind myself that it was going on, and technically still lingers in some form or another (as it likely will for some time). Of course, the same amnesia and apathy does not apply to the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who took part (or their families), and especially to the millions of Iraqis who have been killed, maimed, traumatized, and exiled by the subsequent breakdown in society. Needless to say, the social, economic, and political consequences will likely remain both sides of this conflict for generations (albeit in different ways and degrees).

But given that it’s a busy day at work, I’ll keep my own musings brief. Please feel free to share your own reactions, thoughts, and opinions. At the very least, try to (re)familiarize yourself with this dangerously misunderstood and forgotten war.

Operation Iraqi Freedom is Ended

Today, the US officially declared the mission in Iraq to be over, nearly a decade after it begun. Having come of age when it first started, it feels strange to imagine it is actually, even though it’s been more-or-less outside the public consciousness for some time.

I wonder what will  happen now or further down the road. Iraq is a mess on so many levels. Its economy is weak and unequal, its politics are fractious and corrupt, violence and infighting are still everyday realities, and millions of citizens remain traumatized, bitter, or distrustful of each other. How do you fix a country where nearly everyone has PTSD everything looks bleak?
 
Around 4,500 American troops were killed, another 30,000 were wounded, and an estimated 1 million had served during the course of the conflict. About 150,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, were killed, and the number may be higher. None of those scars, be they physical or mental, will heal any time soon – nor will the broader geopolitical impact (deep-seated mistrust of the US, a strengthened Iran, and so on).
 
I wish there was more I could say, but frankly, like most Americans, I want this tragic chapter in our history closed. I should be so lucky as to be able to do that – plenty of returning veterans, many of them around my age, certainly won’t anytime soon, nor will the average Iraqi, left with an uncertain future and poor leadership. Arguably, they’ll all be damaged for good, and the larger ramifications of the conflict – which can only be speculated – may go on for generations (comparisons to Vietnam are too cliché to merit any more mention).
 
I’d like to think that all the blood and money that went into this effort will pay off, that Iraq, still loosely a democratic republic, will eventually thrive and stabilize for good. I’d like to think that the returning troops will be hailed as heroes, rather than be met with perfunctory respect coupled with sympathy. I’d like to believe our capacity to do good things in this world will be validated, rather than viewed with intense suspicion both domestically and abroad. The optimist in me still holds out hope that there will be some silver-lining to all this – Iraq is comparatively freer after all – but even so, the question will remain: was it worth it? At what cost did any unambiguous accomplishments, if they materialize, come?
 
If history is any guide, there will never be a universally accepted answer to these questions: we’ll keep debating, speculating, and disagreeing for as long as we exist. Scholars and historians will try to learn from it, or derive lessons for any contemporary foreign policy debates with which to compare. We’ll keep explaining, rationalizing, and according blame long after those involved have passed on. People will continue to find events and consequences that they can trace back to that fateful decision to invade. As with all momentous episodes, the “what ifs” will dog us forever.
 
In the end, I’m just glad it’s as close to over as it’s going to be (there will never be total closure) and that my fellow citizens can come home. I hope they can adjust to society, which is currently going through a bad spell, and recover from wounds both clear and unseen. In spite of the grim precedent, I hope the Iraqis can come together, pick up the pieces, and form a great nation befitting the inheritors of the cradle of civilization. They paid a great toll, largely at the hands of those who remain to fight the current government. I hope that someday, these kinds of things will stop happening. Interstate wars have mercifully been exceedingly rare since the end of World War II, but even a single one is more than enough pain and sorrow to bear, whatever the reasons.
 

I understand that’s quite a lot of hope to have, especially as Afghanistan remains unresolved, and the track-record for collective amnesia is disheartening. For what it’s worth, I wish everyone who has been directly affected in some way or another much peace and solidarity.

I’ll leave everyone with some images to reflect on.