The Iraq War: Ten Years Later
This piece was written by Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action in collaboration with New Jersey Peace Action member and Montclair resident, Ethel Owens. Both participated in the massive New York City protest on February 15, 2003.
Ten years have passed since the inception of the Iraq War. And what have we reaped? An unacceptable and unnecessary loss and disruption of human life, both American and Iraqi, an enormous waste of American resources in a time of great recession, and the deprivation to American cities and towns of social services sorely needed while the military budget burgeoned -- these are the wages of this war.
We cannot claim or celebrate a victory in Iraq -- the country is in shambles politically and rebuilding economically, just as our country is. Some talk as if the Iraq war is over because the troops have come home. Yet we hear frequent stories of suicide bombings or shootings occurring, as political unrest continues in Iraq. We also hear about the legacy of the war: depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during the first Gulf War potentially affecting four generations of Iraqis, years of sanctions and displacement of four million Iraqis, and the most recent deadly violence of the latest war.
We certainly cannot claim increased security and prosperity here at home. Nor can we ignore the problems of our returning veterans, many suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The average national wait time for an initial response to a disability claim is 8 months. In New York, according to the Center on Investigative Reporting (CIR), the average wait is 412 days! The Veterans' Administration reports a backlog of 900,000 disability claims. CIR also found that 53 vets die each day waiting to get their benefits. Vets name this process "Delay, deny, wait till I Die." According to one veteran of the Iraq war, 1/3 of those serving in Iraq were diagnosed with PTSD. And the latest Veterans Affairs report indicates that 22 veterans of all wars commit suicide each day.
So tragic! The U.S. and its allies waged this costly war on Iraq over "weapons of mass destruction" that did not exist.
From the very beginning, many in the U.S. and around the world did not believe that claim. In fact, 40% of the American people polled just prior to the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq did not believe it. On February 15, 2003 twelve to twenty million people all over the world took to the streets in historic numbers to protest the planned invasion of Iraq. Included in that number were the more than - million people who filled the streets of New York City, enduring freezing cold temperatures and being herded into pens by the New York City police. Many already questioned the bromides the government and the mainstream press was pushing. What was the real agenda?
Were there indeed weapons of mass destruction? Why was Halliburton so involved in the destruction and the subsequent rebuilding of Iraq -- and what was their profit? Were we really going to "provide full education and health care for every Iraqi child" when our own children did not have those benefits? And lastly, what role did our oil companies play in the desire to invade and "rebuild" Iraq? Did Iraq's plans to sell its oil in euros instead of dollars influence the decision to invade?
The U.S. had recently suffered through 9/11/01. The administration of George W. Bush announced a goal of "defeating terrorism." But that tactic cannot be defeated with bombs and tanks. And Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, so why destroy it?
Giant placards with such questions were carried by the thousands, nay, millions, of protesters everywhere, with the younger generation angrily posing such questions while joyfully drumming drums and ringing bells to a future enlightened world which would routinely ask such questions and repudiate finally the suicide of war. Many members of New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) joined the protest, traveling into New York by car, bus and train!
On February 17, 2003, two days after the New York and worldwide demonstrations, Patrick Tyler, New York Times reporter wrote: "The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two super powers on the planet: The United States and WORLD PUBLIC OPINION.
"In his campaign to disarm Iraq, by war if necessary, President Bush appears to be eyeball to eyeball with a tenacious new adversary: Millions of people who flooded the streets of New York and dozens of other world cities to say they are against war based on the evidence at hand."
Ten years ago, our voices joined with millions opposing the Iraq war. NJPA continues to speak out to prevent more bloodshed and destruction of our planet. Let our government listen to the people this time, whether our new "adversary" is Iran, North Korea, Mali or elsewhere, refrain from war and seek peace through diplomacy.