Iraq, how I love thee. I hate to admit, but when you started I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I watched the opening round on TV, glued to the images of destruction and the reports of embedded reported. I signed my contract with the military before you began. When I started military school, I was lauded for being a ‘real American’ by signing up at a time a war. I had hoped to go to Afghanistan, but you stole that from me.
You loomed over my college days. My unit started a remembrance wall, last seen during the Vietnam War for those lost. The smiling faces of upperclassmen that graduated and then shipped off were followed by Silver Taps as we remembered them when they fell. Each one hurt, this war became a personal tragedy early. Those who made it came back changed, either fed up with the stupidity of the venture, hardened in spirit, or emotionally shattered. Still we were lauded by our school. How brave we were. Brave… I still was getting paid to go to class. And then I too graduated.
Though, I disdain getting into to a war, I love fighting one. It is a contradiction that I wrestle with. War is terribly beautiful. But it should never be conducted without doing everything one can to avoid it.
It is great fun until someone gets hurt. We laugh when rockets slam into our midst, joking about the insurgents’ terrible aim, but then the odds come up. Someone dies, a brother-in-arms, turned to meat by an unlucky combination of a rocket’s drift, the wind, and the firer’s luck. We cry. Then we do it all over again.
So what, after almost nine years have we learned? We learned how to effectively fight an insurgency, knowledge that if preserved from Vietnam would have enabled us to not rebuild those ideas from scratch. Everything that Hackworth wrote in my father’s generation, we now know again. Paid for in blood, again.
What did it cost? Well we won’t learn that for years to come. Here is what we know so far:
8 years, 260 days since Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program
8 years, 215 days since the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq
8 years, 175 days since President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln
4,479 U.S. military fatalities
30,182 U.S. military injuries
103,142 – 112,708 documented civilian deaths
2.8 million internally displaced Iraqis
$806 billion in federal funding for the Iraq War through FY2011
$3 – $5 trillion in total economic cost to the United States of the Iraq war according to economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Blimes
$60 billion in U.S. expenditures lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001
0 weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq
(Source: Think Progress)