Four years ago at this time I lay in a hospital bed in Baghdad after a rollover wreck near Basra, on the eve what would become one of the longest wars in U.S. history.
I've always found it ironic that a peace delegate, George Weber, became the first casualty of the war in 2003.
I still remember one elderly nurse at the Iraqi Red Crescent hospital who came by each morning to tend to my broken back. Although she didn't speak English, she pointedly held out the cross around her neck as a token of her faith in my eventual recovery.
Now these healers have themselves become subject to kidnappings and killings.
Meanwhile the President and the new Congress continues to debate Iraqi strategy with the same lack of intelligence and insight that they had before the war. They never pause to ask Iraqis for their views and analysis.
To the average Iraqi, it no longer matters what prompted the war or who contributes to the institutional and personal violence. They only wish it would end and for the U.S. to leave.
A Shi'ia friend wrote this week, "Saddam was a terrible man, and he is now gone. But Bush and Congress only gave us blood killing for our holiday (Eid), not gifts for our children."
He was describing his frustration with the ongoing war. "I am writing with tears in my eyes. Tell Bush he gave the USA people more and more enemies and he must be ashamed of himself."
This friend knows I live in Texas and thinks I have some "in" to the President.
During the past four years my fellow peacemakers and I have continued to travel back and forth to Iraq to examine the war and its aftermath and getting to know Iraqis at every level of society.
We've met politicians, community organizers, military commanders, religious leaders, and ordinary families.
We have seen first-hand the death and destruction caused by the war, prayed inside mosques and churches, visited schools and businesses, and slept in Iraqi homes.
Here is what we've found.
Although sectarian conflict is rising, the 'civil war' is partially a fight between rival political parties seeking control and mostly an armed insurrection against U.S. and government forces. Only a small portion of the "insurgents" are non-Iraqi.
Iraqis want to run their own country but are not permitted to do so. White House appointees and expatriate Iraqis continue to dominate the political affairs of Iraq. Major organs of state and the economy banking, telecommunications, energy, military, and transportation remain firmly under U.S. control.
As the economy spiraled down, the violence increased. A disastrous economy, already fragile after a decade of U.N. embargos, has been almost completely destroyed by political mismanagement from Washington and ongoing military occupation. Humanitarian and international aid groups with much to contribute were forced out.
This war will not be ended through military means. No amount of troop "surges",
changed tactics, or military goodwill can erase four years of degradation, corruption, and incompetence. There is no "way forward" so long as the same folks are in charge.
The Iraqi people want the U.S. to leave, the sooner the better. They have said it time and again, yet their pleas fall on deaf ears. American troops concur and want to return home as well.
Each day of this New Year brings a funeral to Iraqi and American dead. Hospitals from Samarra to San Antonio are filled with the injured victims of war. And we ask, "When will they ever learn?"
It hurts even more now.