How do we honor those who died in the Great Iraq Fiasco? Suing the president for malpractice would be a good start. If only we could.
After past wars, Americans have always said, “They gave up their lives for our freedom.” But that’s not always true. It was true enough in World War II, somewhat true in WWI, definitely true in the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the Revolutionary War, but with all the rest, our freedom was never at stake-and it is especially untrue for the Vietnam War and the Iraq invasion.
Then again, they say the first casualty of war is truth.
But it’s all the more important to honor those who gave everything for a war that should never have been fought. One good way to honor such a sacrifice would be to make those responsible for such wars accountable, but the American people don’t have the courage to do that yet. In 243 days (and counting) G.W. Bush will waltz off to his ranch and leave his mess in somebody else’s lap. At the very least he should be roundly booed out of Washington.
The next best way to honor those who served is to make sure such a mistake never occurs again. To do that, we have to learn some hard lessons. To do that we have to face some very unpleasant truths:
1) Our government lied to us. Being “honestly mistaken” would be bad enough. But there is no acceptable excuse for making a mistake about going to war. You either have proof positive that it’s necessary or you don’t. Our government didn’t have the proof. Therefore they deceived us.
2) War never solves anything. It is designed to destroy and only to destroy. That’s why war should only be resorted to, with greatest reluctance, as a last resort.
3) You can’t force people to become democratic at the point of a gun.
4) We’ll be attending to the needs of the casualties of this war for the next 50-60 years. In addition to the 4,000 plus (and counting) who have made the ultimate sacrifice, there are thousands of amputees and returning vets who will be suffering significant mental health issues for the rest of their lives.
We’ve already seen the haunting legacy of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome with Vietnam vets, many of whom are still struggling with those issues four decades later. If we really want to “support the troops,” we’ll need to do more than slap stickers on our automobiles. We’ll need to pay dearly to give them the comprehensive health care support they’ll need.
The hardest fact to face this Memorial Day is that none of the wars we’ve fought since World War II were necessary-with the possible exception of Afghanistan. We’ve always attempted to justify these wars once we get into them by saying we must support our troops. But we don’t support our troops-and we significantly dishonor them-by sending them into wars that never should have been fought in the first place.
What we need to figure out is how to honor the men and women who serve in dishonorable wars. Honor the service, dishonor those who take us into unjust wars.
Those who serve in dishonorable wars deserve even greater honor. They believed in their country and answered its call-even when the call came from contemptible administrations like the current one (“Ours is not to wonder why. Ours is but to do and die,” as Tennyson put it in “The Charge of the Light Brigade”).
A lot of these kids are serving because they believe in our country, believe in its ideals, believe they’re fighting for a good cause. They deserve better. They deserve to be honored.
The fact that they’re being terribly exploited by unprincipled politicians means we owe them an even greater debt. Their sacrifice isn’t senseless; it’s tragic. And the American people are complicit in this tragedy by not resisting the lie in the first place and by not denouncing the lie once it became obvious.
As long as we fail to make the Bush Administration accountable for their actions on Iraq, we dishonor those who served there.
But the best way to make their sacrifices worthwhile is to resist all future efforts to take us into wars that shouldn’t be fought. If Iraq is the war that ends all wars for the United States, the sacrifices of all those young men and women will be made meaningful. If we allow ourselves to be fooled yet again, we not only dishonor those who served and died, but we put yet another generation of idealistic young people at risk.
Those who served we have not served well.