By Ted Braun
On March 20 ten years ago, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney took our nation into the Iraq War. According to George Tenet, director of the CIA, it was supposed to be a “slam-dunk.” In fact, on May 1 of that year Bush, standing before a “Mission Accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, declared the end of “major combat” in Iraq.
Today at the ten-year mark, however, the Iraq War is being described as one of the biggest disasters in the history of our nation. The figures are disturbing: An amount of $2 trillion has already been spent. Nearly 5,000 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives (either in combat or through suicide). Tens of billions will still be needed for continuing troop disability expenses. It is costing over $600 million a year to guard the giant U.S. Embassy and its personnel in Baghdad.
The figures for the Iraqi side are disquieting, too. Over one million Iraqis have died due to the invasion. Five million have become refugees, many fleeing to other countries. But the worst outcome for the Iraqi people is taking place as they suffer from contamination resulting from Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions, white phosphorous, a new kind of napalm, and bullets containing lead, uranium, and mercury. Between 2002 and 2005, the U.S. armed forces expended six billion of these bullets.
Two Iraqi cities, Fallujah and Basrah, have exhibited increasing rates of cancer and congenital birth defects: children being born with two heads, only one eye in the center of their face, multiple tumors, disfiguring facial and body deformities, and complex nervous system problems. The majority of families had returned to their bombarded homes and lived there, or otherwise rebuilt on top of the contaminated rubble of their old homes. The remaining traces of DU in Iraq represent a formidable long-term environmental hazard since they will remain radioactive for more than 4.5 billion years.
Another source of Iraqi anger against the U.S. (still continuing today) was the treatment that Iraqi prisoners received in fourteen U.S. prisons in Iraq after 2003. A leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross listed treatment that included mock executions, waterboarding, painful stress positions, extreme heat and cold, sleep deprivation, electric shocks, rape and sodomy, and sexual humiliation.
Two days before the Iraq War began, a group of veteran Intelligence professionals wrote a Memorandum to President Bush, urging him not to attack Iraq. In it they stated that the intelligence information upon which the attack was being based—the reports of uranium, aluminum tubes, and weapons of mass destruction—was fraudulent and cooked. It appeared, they said, that the administration was shaping the intelligence for political purposes. Needless to say, their Memorandum was ignored and the war commenced.
On the Internet there is a moving “Last Letter” written by Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran who was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City and is now under hospice care. He wrote the letter to George Bush and Dick Cheney on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. Following are two paragraphs from his letter. They are rather long, but it’s important for us to hear what this dying man has to say:
“I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to ‘liberate’ Iraqis or to shut down the mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called ‘democracy’ in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out preemptive war. Preemptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.
“I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.”
There are many things to think about on this tenth anniversary.
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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.