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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Thoughts About Iraq: Is there a way to feel good about it?

Uploaded: Dec 20, 2011
Like most Americans, I saw footage of the last Americans loading out of Iraq with relief and pride in our troops' ability to fight a hostile enemy in a worse environment, half-way around the globe. Those who could endure that mortal peril and overcome a zealous foe deserve our deepest gratitude.

That keynote sentiment sincerely expressed, I've been trying to find a way to decide it was a worthy policy choice. Is there any way to conclude that it was a good idea, from the inception through to the recent conclusion? In terms of casualties, 4487 American troops died there, more than 93% of the "coalition" total, and another 33,186 of our military were seriously wounded. I am personally close to an Iraq vet, and have seen the legacy of his service, in terms of dreams delayed and altered, gruesome memories that can't be expunged, reflexive reactions to unanticipated sounds.

Among the locals, it is variously estimated that more than 105,000 men, women and children succumbed since the first explosions of shock and awe. Every one of them also had a story. Did all those human beings die for something worthwhile?

It can be argued that the US deposed and brought to justice a vicious dictator, and that is true. But among the world's worst 21st century tyrants, Saddam Hussein barely made the Top Ten list. Did we really trade all those lives and futures for his? And if that's our job as world superpower – who's next?

Then there is the WMD pretext. None were found, and there is ample evidence that the US government knew from the outset that their claimed existence was dubious, at best.

Did we really fight "Them" over there, so we wouldn't have to fight Them here?" Any linkage between Iraq and Al Qaeda is illusory – perhaps born of a willful ignorance of those diverse cultures and relationships. I suppose that Iraq did become a flame, drawing to it some whose goal it was to fight Americans. Terrorists don't seek a traditional fight, however – I don't think there's much evidence that the war concentrated those vermin in a place where they could be exterminated efficiently.

Did Iraq arrest the growth of terrorism? That also seems doubtful – if anything, I'm with Richard Clarke's assertion that among the tiny minority of politically aware Muslims in the world, our invasion drove some passionate young Iraqis in the direction of martyrdom. And I would suggest that an occupying army on our shores would create a similar effect among patriotic Americans.

Did we at least gain a measure of retributive satisfaction for the atrocities of 9/11? To believe that, you'd have to also believe that most Muslims really are terrorists, which, as above, they manifestly are not. It's also hard for me to decide that the follow-on deaths of more Americans than died on that dark day might be considered worth it.

Beyond the meager accomplishments that might be claimed, what did Iraq cost in addition to those lives, on all sides or none -- every one precious to somebody? The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that rolled-up costs, including interest on real national debt taken out, to fund the conflict, will be roughly $2 Trillion by 2017. That's twelve zeros, times two. Medical and interest costs will, of course, extend well beyond that date. What better things might the federal government have done with that money – or put another way -- where would we be if it hadn't been spent? Those who complain about Big Government and its wasteful ways need to wear all those zeros.

Internationally, the US squandered goodwill by acting unilaterally in the face of resistance from cooler heads elsewhere. It was hardly a coalition of the willing, and appeared, to many observers, to be an act of empire in a world that sorely needs multilateralism to resolve its most pressing humanitarian, political and environmental crises.
My own final, unhappy thought about Iraq is that it was a 20th century war – against a furtive 21st century foe. Occupy-and-subdue is an exceptionally expensive approach to defeating an enemy that has no national allegiance nor territorial base or ambitions. Terrorists are Tom Friedman's "super-empowered individuals" – don't they need a more efficient, surgical response?

I would like to find a way to decide for myself, and to reassure my veteran friend, that this war, and its successor in Afghanistan, are somehow worthy of the sacrifice. Can somebody help me here?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Harald A. Bailey, a resident of another community,
on Dec 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Dear Tom,

Thank you. As a Viet Nam veteran, there cannot be a war with a different result fought anywhere in Asia.

Joyous wishes at Christmas and welcome home to all our service people from Iraq.


Posted by George, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 21, 2011 at 6:47 am

"Internationally, the US squandered goodwill by acting unilaterally in the face of resistance from cooler heads elsewhere."
Are you serious? How many U.N. resolutions would it take for you to concede that the U.S. had ample international support to disarm Iraq? Pandering to the U.N. and its useless diplomacy ran its course, just as the useless, dangerous, ineffective "diplomacy" of our current president is running its course towards even more serious future conflicts. Nice touch for you thanking the troops, but your obvious disdain regarding the Iraq conflict and those in leadership at the time is obvious. Guessing you'll be voting for Ron Paul?

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 21, 2011 at 7:26 am

Well yeah, George, I'm serious as an IED attack. The UN is one source of opinion and there are many others. It is my impression that those countries who committed troops were mostly strong-armed into doing so.

I would also note that those other countries didn't exactly rush to the front, as demonstrated by the fact that 97+% of the casualties were US and UK dead. The other 23 'willing partners,' not so many.

Another part of the reason the world needs multilateralism is to share the burden. The US should not bear the whole load in blood or money. Do those numbers look like a shared burden to you?

Posted by Curious George, a resident of another community,
on Dec 21, 2011 at 7:49 am

George, do you watch or read the news at all?

When it comes to checking the score card of who has effectively taken out bad guys, either through direct action(Bin Laden) or smart positioning within a coalition(Libya), this President is head and shoulders above any going a generation or two back. The difference is he doesn't do it with self-congratulatory press conferences or ill conceived "Mission Accomplishment" dog and pony shows.

Your issue with the Prez is obviously something other than his national security record and your frustration is simply showing in your silly claim not supported by fact.

Remind me again what we accomplished with the $3 TRILLION we will have spent in Iraq when the bill is all paid for besides taking out a 2-bit local hood who was keeping Iran in check. The only WMD were in Dick Chaney's fabricated intel. But that Haliburton stock of his paid off nicely for him and his buddies with all those security contracts now, didn't it?

Local men and women had to die for this boondoggle and families will be forever pained. But in the shoot first, ask questions later world you appear to live in that's someone elses price you are more than willing to pay?

Posted by John Tanner, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:01 am

Since the Bush era wars were paid for by what amounts to a mortgage, ie deficit spending. Let's see if we can convince the d-a republican hooligans in Congress to agree to immediately retire this debt by either cutting spending somewhere else, or raising taxes. Or maybe that is what they told 'W' at that time? Not! they bent over and gladly accepted it. The party of dumb has gotten even dumber since the George regime was ousted. Just look at their candidates for president!!!!

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm

"Is there a way to feel good about it?"...We "should feel good" the fact we are blessed to live in a country where brave men and woman are willing to serve their country, even if that means potentially giving their lives for our country...Whether you agree or disgree with going to Iraq, there should be no disagreement about the bravery of our soldiers and all the sacrifices they make for our great country, and for that alone, I "feel good".

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

By gawd, American, I just knew we would find common ground, somewhere.

Happy New Year!

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 28, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Mr. Cushing: I bet there are a couple more things we have in common:

(1) Importance of taking in rescue dogs, instead of buying from dog breeders;
(2) Realization we are blessed to live in a great town like Danville;
(3) Sick and tired of everything "Kardashian".

Belated Merry Christmas, and lets remember to keep Christ in Christmas!

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