With nearly 3,500 U.S. troops dead and more than 26,000 servicemen wounded, not to mention the more than 100,000 Iraqis killed, this was a poignant Memorial Day for me. I remember attending a lecture at LSU in the spring of 2001, and the lecturer listed all the reasons why Iraq was not capable of an attack on the U.S., and the reasons why a preemptive strike would be the wrong thing to do.
Five years later, those words echo as we've dug ourselves into a quagmire that has destroyed our reputation around the world, made our country exponentially more unsafe, and created a haven for Islamic extremists (in Iraq). It's tough to ignore the parallels to the Vietnam War that also began under the pretense of promoting democracy abroad, and ended in a senseless waste of money and human life.
Each evening, at the end of The News Hour on PBS, the program airs photos of soldiers recently killed in Iraq. Below the photo is the soldier's age and hometown. I'm not sure what saddens me most, seeing the 18 and 19-year-olds fresh out of high school, or the 35-year-olds who probably have three young kids at home waiting for their return. I think everyone who supported this disaster should sit through this photo roll each evening.
Watching this episode unfurl during the past five years has been at times unbelievable, and other times amazingly ironic. In a Christian society that each election cycle debates the value of human life with regard to abortion, we're so easily led into battle and are so quiet in the face of this enormous loss of human life. Equally ironic was tonight's report on The News Hour about proposed cuts to the SCHIP program that provides health insurance to America's least privileged children. Apparently we can't find the money to insure the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, yet we supported a war that at this point has cost each American family $20,000.
This site compares the cost of the Iraq War to what we could do in healthcare and education with the same amount of money.
Initial White House cost estimates were $50 to $60 billion dollars. Some economists have now predicted that this war will end up costing $1 trillion.
I can try to find the bright spot in all of this and say that we'll learn from our mistakes and a transgression of this magnitude won't happen again. But there isn't a bright spot. As we've seen over and over again throughout history, nationalism and colonialist tendencies are no match for our feigned concern for human life.