Reflection on Memorial Day and the War in Iraq
by The Milton Measure on Friday, June 10th, 2011
Memorial Day reminds us to respect the dreadful power of war, and the harsh consequences of its use. Certainly, we have to admire the bravery of the men and women of the United States who put their country before their own lives.
Who cannot help but think highly of someone brave and strong enough to leave their families and be thrown into the middle of a battle between militaries, cultures, egos, and tempers! However, we must also remember that war has consequences. In seconds, beautiful, lively human beings become corpses lying on the ground, covered with blood and mud.
The families of the 4,454 Americans who lost their lives fighting, and the families of the thousands more wounded and emotionally scarred soldiers returning from Iraq can only ask questions: Why did my loved one have to die? Why did the U.S. go to war? Is the war worth the consequences?
In truth, the War in Iraq has become something it was never supposed to be.
When former president George W. Bush declared war, he aimed to destroy supposed weapons of mass destruction that never actually existed. This act of disempowerment, he felt, would make a statement about America’s stand against terrorism.
On March 20th, 2003, the war began. More than eight years later, no one has found the weapons. In fact, former Sergeant Camilo Mejia, who in 2004 went to prison for refusing to be redeployed, boldly declared that he, “realized that none of the reasons we were told about why we were in Iraq turned out to be true. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.”
He continued, “We weren’t helping the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people didn’t want us there. We weren’t preventing terrorism or making Americans safer. I couldn’t find a single good reason for having been there, for having shot at people and been shot at.”
People should not die for a cause that helps no one. A war once referred to as the principle theatre of the broader War on Terrorism, has since adopted the name Operation Iraqi Freedom. The U.S. had to find a new way to explain why we are invading another country, causing the deaths of innocent civilians, and continuing a costly and brutal war 6,000 miles away from home.
We have tirelessly promoted our capture and execution of Saddam Hussein as a turning point in the conflict.
The Iraqi people had good reason to hate a government that censored outside information, limited personal freedom, and caused as many as 200,000 deaths of its own people.
However, in order to justify our own actions, we quietly disregarded the people who recognized that Hussein used Iraq’s oil resources to make his nation wealthier, created campaigns to make more of his people literate, and ruled a country that lacked the wrenching religious conflicts and insidious terrorism groups surrounding nations struggled to deal with.
The United States has tried to install a democratic government in Iraq run by the people. Why then are we so hesitant to let the Iraqis run their new government independently?
Memorial Day reminds us of the people who died fighting for a cause. Part of the reason it has taken so long for us to pull out of Iraq is that our original cause—to eliminate weapons of mass destruction—was never real, and so our present goals are built on a foundation of sand.
Despite our questionable actions to this point, we have a chance to better a now unstable nation, even if their instability is our fault.
For me, it is simply an issue of pride. With our country’s power, size, and success, Americans have reason to think that, as long as we are in control, we can make things better.
At some point, we need to let someone else show that they are ready to take responsibility for their country. 4,454 dead soldiers should know that the cause they fought for not only demonstrated the strength of their own nation, but also truly helped the people of another nation prepare to rule themselves.
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