Iraq War Ends Nine Years Too Late
By Kristina Gronquist
As the new year begins, I can't help but wish that I had the courage of Martin Luther King, Jr. whose birthday we celebrated January 16th, or Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation in protest to corruption in Tunisia, December 2010 sparked the Arab Spring. One tries to follow in the footsteps of those who lived, and died, their values, but it is challenging. Perhaps the most that some of us can do is to wake up every morning and if we failed to fight the good fight - the one for justice - the day before, we start trying again. That is what I can resolve to do, at the very least.
Over the years, especially post 9-11, I wrote political commentary frequently. First, to try to put a juggernaut in the path of the violent response the US government took to the terrorist attack on the towers. I couldn't think of anything worse than responding to the violence of the suicide mission with more violence, knowing a military strike on Afghanistan would fell a multitude more innocents than "enemies". I wrote, I marched with countless other peace activists, I wrote, I marched...but the hapless Bush struck anyway. The men who participated in 9-11 were not affected, as they were already dead. The men who planned the 9-11 attack were not effected, they were elsewhere. Lots of Taliban soldiers were killed and many innocent Afghan civilians were killed, a new puppet master was placed in power in the capital, Kabul, and Americans who were ignorant of those facts felt avenged and waved flags. My point of view (not to respond with violence) was deemed unpatriotic, even traitorous.
After the US attack and occupation of Afghanistan, my political writings and actions moved on, focusing on the folly of the US going to war with Iraq. Most Americans swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the media lies about WMD and believed the erroneous, non-existent connections of Saddam to 9-11. Once again, my views were in the minority, ridiculed. I recall a young cashier at a store telling me, a few days post Iraq invasion, "Don't worry, it's going to be a short war - we won't be there long".
Nearly nine years later, it is painful for me to revisit those initial years of Bush's war. I was the editor of an anti-war newsletter and I was immersed in every nook and cranny of US war policy - the tortures of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib by US soldiers, the terrible sacking of cities like Fallujah and Najaf, the destruction of the Iraqi landscape, their economy, hospitals, schools, farms, museums, rivers, the immoral use of depleted uranium, the murders of innocent families at checkpoints, the complete and utter disregard for Iraq's heritage, religion and values. The removal of the despot Saddam replaced by a US sponsored occupation co-joined with bloodletting, chaos, murder, rape and mayhem, attributes which are always, inevitably, part and parcel of the hubris of war.
Only weeks ago the occupation of Iraq officially ended, many US troops left, leaving in their wake a splintered, violent place littered with the dead and injured bodies and souls of a million dead Iraqis. A nation in loss, with most of its professional class gone, infrastructure badly damaged, women much worse off, communities divided and injured, a medical system sans doctors. So much more could be said. And with the trail of destruction the US military left in Iraq so begins the trail of destruction the US soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will embark on in their own land. Their nightmares will not easily subside, nor mine.
The misbegotten, illegal war machine wreaked havoc on the US economy along with the corrupt mortgage industry, the banking monopolies and Wall Street. The billions of tax dollars wasted, lost or squandered in Iraq can't be properly summed up, except in the eyes of the unemployed, the homeless, the children in failing school systems or the people without adequate mass transit, bridges, parks or a clean environment. The biggest price, the main concern, is that Iraqi people were needlessly killed and wounded. Their suffering is paramount to any other effects. As soon as the troops left Iraq, the media honed in on asking the question, "how did the war affect "us"- soldiers, journalists, US citizens. But no media agency ever thought to ask how did the US war effect Iraqis - the ones who were left alive? It is secondary at best to consider how it effected the soldiers who volunteered to fight it or the journalists who willingly went to cover it, came safely back, wrote and made money off books and lecture tours.
The fact that the Iraqis survived at all the internationally condemned invasion and eight year occupation speaks to their courage, resilience and strength. I don't profess to know all the intricacies of Iraq's culture and history with its myriad sects and factions - Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians, etc. I read Professor Juan Cole's blog "Informed Comment" relentlessly for several years to educate myself on these issues, his expertise was, is, and remains invaluable. I know the situation in Iraq is still complex and political violence continues, sadly, with Iraqis killing Iraqis. The violence of war is a monster with poison claws, a powerful, ugly thing that does not die with official pronouncements, but replicates, reproduces and justifies more violence. At some point people just get sick of the blood and the bodies and they wear down and finally stop, but that will take years in Iraq, and the US government is to blame, that unarguable reality must be on the conscience of every person who wanted the war and/or fought in it. I breath a tiny breath of relief, as that was not me.