My parents taught me that when you make a mistake that hurts other people, you should apologize for it.
We owe a Big Apology when it comes to Iraq.
Now that President Obama has announced all America troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year (we don't count the thousands of diplomats, private contractors, mercenaries and covert operatives left behind) perhaps that final troop withdrawal might be the proper time for our government to apologize for our horrifically tragic nine-year error.
We should start with a meaningful apology to the people of Iraq for our ill-conceived, illegal and immoral invasion of a sovereign country that never hurt or threatened us. We certainly owe an apology to the hundreds of thousands of dead, injured and permanently maimed Iraqis and their families, as well as the 2.5 million who fled their country. In a fair world, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their cohorts would go to prison for fabricating and manipulating intelligence data to make a case for their war of choice. In the real world we live in now, an apology would be a good start.
Vietnam 1975: The retreat from another unnecessary war by Hubert Van Ess, UPI photographer
Next we should apologize to the nearly 4500 American soldiers killed there and to their families, as well as to the tens of thousands of injured and permanently maimed troops for sending them into this unnecessary and worthless occupation. We know we will be paying for their medical, psychiatric, and related care for decades to come, but we can at least say "I'm sorry."
We certainly owe an apology to countries like Germany and France (remember "freedom fries" and boycotting French wine) who we criticized for not supporting our rush to war. We need to apologize to the United Nations for defying Security Council opposition to the invasion. And we should offer a "mea culpa" to the millions of protesters here and abroad who took to the streets in 2003 in a vain attempt to convince us not to invade Iraq.
We surely need to apologize to the people of Afghanistan who have had to endure a poorly run American invasion and occupation put on the back burner in the rush to invade and occupy Iraq. Because of the diversion of attention and resources in Iraq, the Afghani people have suffered a more prolonged and mismanaged occupation with no end in sight.
While we're at it, our government should apologize to the tens of millions of Americans who, because of the one trillion (and probably much more) dollars spent thus far in Iraq, have had to do with less education, health care, and other underfunded government services, not to mention a tanking economy and massive public debt.
There are many more apologies our government should offer, and an apology isn't nearly enough for the damage we've caused. And realistically, apologies aren't likely even to be offered. Politically it wouldn't sit well with the right-wing "American exceptionalism" crowd, who would attack such an idea as weak and deferential.
Our country screwed up big time in Iraq, and caused a massive amount of unnecessary death and destruction in the process. Let's hope at some point we will be grown up enough to acknowledge our mistake and tell the world, "We, the United States of America, are truly sorry."