Friday, October 21, 2011

Victory in Iraq

The president announced that our mission in Iraq is about to end. He is bringing home most of our troops after nearly nine years of war and occupation. He said they could hold their heads high and be “proud of their success,” but he didn't say what that success was. He never said we had won. He didn't tell us what we had achieved. He just said it was going to be over. For years people have been predicting that we would eventually simply declare victory and go home. But we aren't even declaring victory. We are just going home.

It was sad. Despite the president's attempt to make our withdrawal look good, the most uplifting thing he was able to say was that our soldiers will be home in time for the holidays. We all know that they could have come home last year, or the year before, or the year before that. We know that there was never any good reason for them to leave home in the first place. More than 4,400 of them died for nothing. We destroyed our economy paying for the war. Tens of thousands of military personnel will bear the physical and mental scars of the war for many years to come. The country of Iraq will bear the terrible scars of our bombings for a long time.

It is tempting to say that the war has been a waste, but it has been much worse than that. You can't simply call the killing of all those people a waste, as if ending human lives were no more important than spilling some food on the ground. The war has been a disgrace. At least the president didn't lie about that. He kept his mouth shut.

There will be parades and television footage of soldiers and Christmas trees and Teddy bears. Every effort will be made to keep this withdrawal from resembling the end of the war in Viet Nam. But no one is going to be fooled. We lived through this war. We know the truth.

Once again, we have been defeated by our own arrogance. We have mistakenly placed our hope in guns and bombs. We told ourselves that this time would be different, and now we must face the fact that war in any time is never different.

In telling us that he was ending the war, the President was delivering a eulogy. He solemnly tried to put the best face on a mournful experience, hoping that we would remember the good times and forget the bad. He encouraged us to embrace one another and think about the future. But we must not be rushed. Before we can heal, we must grieve. We must be honest about what has happened. We must take responsibility.

We have failed in a way that only the mighty can fail. Now is not the time to pretend to glory. Now is the time to be humble and ashamed.

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