Iraq, A decade ago — Of Silence

Ten years have gone by since the U.S. Invasion of Iraq. I have looked all week and note a distinct void of anything substantive in the mass media. Why? First I will bare my own discord with the event.

I served in Iraq thus I am torn as I write this. I have seen both the devastation and the heroics. I have left friends on the battlefield, and the worst for me will forever be the death of Adam the son of our good friends. He was a young man who by his dad’s request I enlisted in the US Army just a few years earlier. Adam died honorably serving his country, his fellow team mates and the Iraqi people. The men and women who served in this war and the many who gave their lives are true patriots and heroes. The team I had the honor of leading will forever be my nearest brothers and sisters. Their accomplishments, dedication, and loyalty to our team and their country are not, and cannot be questioned. This piece by me is not meant to take anything away from all those loyal men and women who went forward without question to do their best in serving their country and leadership’s wishes for the Iraqi people.

I was among them, except for hero part but doing my best in service to my country, my leadership, and the Iraqi people. I retired as a USAF 0-5 after returning in 2007 and have lived aboard our sailing yacht since. I am no longer burdened with the weight of loyalty to leadership, party(s), or setting an example for the loyal troops. I can choose what I read and form and voice opinions out loud. My loyalty today is to my family, my friends, and my country. In a democracy it is patriotic to ask questions that should be asked and share conclusions with the people and the legislative elite.

So why the media silence? I have waited to see what would be published, and nothing, so this post is after the anniversary date.  A decade is considered a milestone in everything from sports to auto models and yes, wars. This week silence. Is the media embarrassed or feeling complicit as Paul Krugman suggested earlier in the week? Is this what guilty silence sounds like? Did media fail so miserably to ask the right questions that today’s response is to pretend it didn’t happen? Should they have challenged the “overpowering conventional wisdom”? Since the invasion, a lot of questions have been asked, and many answered. Everything from the lack of or misleading the public on intelligence, actions and priorities on the ground, to the costs both ours and Iraqis has been researched. I repeat the mantra, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

My first look came from the battlefield; being in a unique position, also the Division Battle Staff (BS). By day I helped the “kids” working with the Iraqis, by night I watched the BS slides describing contacts, actions, and objectives. But the ones seeming most out of place to me were about oil production broken down by areas and pipelines. How to secure them, how to keep the oil flowing and increasing was indeed discussed among the most senior military leadership, with follow-on tasks assigned. So military manpower was used to aid and increase oil flowing out of the country. This hit most close to home when I read Kevin Phillips book American Theocracy this past summer with his conclusion the war was about/over oil.

“In Baghdad’s Iraqi National Museum, left wide open to looters in 2003 by careless military planners, dozens of wall maps explaining Iraq’s achievements as the cradle of world civilization: it’s invention of writing and the wheel, the birth of mathematics, and the establishment of the first code of laws (Hammurabi’s). By most archeologists’ accounts, the museum and the National Library were world-class institutions with unique collections.

 

Even so, the first major building to be surrounded and occupied by American soldiers was the one housing truly vital maps and artifacts: The Iraqi Oil Ministry. Here were thousands of seismic portrats of the nation’s oil fields, the subterranean keys to the Majnoon, northern Rumaila, West Qurna, and many more. World opinion had little difficulty in mistaking U.S. priorities.”

After wrestling my way through his book I posted my agreement. Going farther back before my deployment my favorite article appeared in the New Your Times – A War for US, Fought by Them, William Broyles. As someone who tried unsuccessfully to avoid Viet Nam, he is touching in his admiration of the military, and compelling when he begins a breakdown of who had family in wars and who from the legislative bodies had family in the current war(s). You should read the whole article but his conclusion provides a knockout punch so appropriate to Iraq:

“If this war is truly worth fighting, then the burdens of doing so should fall on all Americans. If you support this war, but assume that Pat Tillman and Other People’s Children should fight it, then you are worse than a hypocrite. If it’s not worth your family fighting it, then it’s not worth it, period. The draft is the truest test of public support for the administration’s handling of the war, which is perhaps why the administration is so dead set against bringing it back.”

I carried that article around for years. I quoted it, my Chief read it and passed it to every troop in the squadron saying something to the effect “If my commander thinks this is worth reading, you should all read it”. Then we all went…because it was our duty…not someone elses. Now I’m looking at the ten year milestone, listening and hearing nothing but eerie quiet so I’ll post some thoughts and a bit of the Iraqi cost from the Watson Institute – Ten Years after the Invasion of Iraq study and the Huffington post accumulated data:

  • $2.2 Trillion – U.S Federal price tag, not including veterans care into the future
  • $6 Trillion estimated including care for vets per the Huffington Post
  • 3,518 killed in action
  • 975 killed in non-hostile incidents
  • 32,221 wounded in action
  • 991 total amputations
    • 797 major limbs
    • 194 partial limbs
  • $60 Billion spent on reconstruction and development by the U.S Government
  •  $8 Billion was wasted per the final report of the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction – Huffington Post

Few in these studies and articles comment on the opportunity cost as U.S credibility has taken a hit. While our media ignores this decade milestone, the foreign press has not. The U.K. Guardian blasts their government and the U.S. and Bush administration. The article is filled with quotes and examples from very senior military leaders with no punches pulled when it comes to misplaced priorities and responsibility. “”It was absolutely irresponsible to go in without thinking of the consequences”, said Lord Guthrie, former chief of defence staff and head of the army. He added: “War is dangerous, difficult, and dirty, but usually cheaper and shorter and easier than what can happen after the fighting stops.” They like I, are critical of the U.S (Bremmer) dismantling the entire military and subsequent creation of a massive police/authority vacume.

Financially we went from a nation with budget excesses to running a continuous deficit. Not all because of the war of course. But I can easily argue we could and should have been watching over the banks a bit better with just a tiny fraction of the manpower and capital spent in an unnecessary war. Knowledgeable authors are asking very tough questions, publishing meticulously documented findings, but gaining little traction from mass media. Former Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” which encountered a virtual boycott by the major news media when published in 2008, and “United States v. George W. Bush et al.,” by Elizabeth de la Vega, a former Assistant U.S Attorney who presents the case for criminal fraud. Both books rest their case on proof of deliberate deception by the President and members of his war cabinet. These authors are not “crazies” but experienced legal experts with well researched work.

My point however is not that legal action be taken but simply one of not ignoring the lessons. We have learned much in this decade. Mistakes, missteps, likely deception at the least and maybe more. But we need to dig, look, acknowledge, publish, study and learn. Self reflection it is called, or we stand to repeat the same mistakes with, as Broyles states “Other People’s Children”.

If there is doubt, take a look at those numbers from a couple paragraphs earlier. For us who were there and so many who were not, they are not just numbers but real people…gone. Our friends, family, communiity members, husbands, and wives who served and sacrificed their lives and limbs supporting this country. I am forever in honor of their loyality and sacrifice. That sacrifice alone makes it even more important to question why, and how we as a country can learn from what was right, and what was wrong. Why is the mass media ignoring this anniversary opportunity?

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