A Day of Dishonor

The ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has come and gone, and with little fanfare. The Iraq War should never have had a first anniversary. President Bush announced on May 1, 2003 – in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner – that “the United States and our allies have prevailed” and “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” If the war had ended then, it would have resulted in the deaths of “only” 140 U.S. soldiers. But, of course, it didn’t end. Just like it didn’t end on August 31, 2010, when President Obama proclaimed that “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” By that time 4,420 U.S. soldiers had died for a lie. The war in Iraq did not “officially” end until December 18, 2011, after 4,487 U.S. soldiers had died in vain. The war lasted more than twice as long as the U.S. war against Nazi Germany in World War II. I first wrote about the Iraq War on its third anniversary (“Weapons of Mass Distraction“) when 2,317 American soldiers had already died. When I wrote about the war on its fourth anniversary (“Four Years, Four Plans“), that number had risen to 3,218. On the fifth, (“Five Years and Counting“), the number was up to 3,992. On the sixth (“What Happened to the War?”), it was up to 4,259. On the war’s seventh anniversary (“The Forgotten War“), that number had risen to 4,385. Last year, on the war’s eighth anniversary (“When Will the Iraq War Really End?“), the number of U.S. soldiers who had died was up to 4,439. I would not have written anything about the Iraq War this year had not President Obama just proclaimed the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq to be a National Day of Honor: Nine years ago, members of the United States Armed Forces crossed the sands of the Iraq-Kuwait border and began one of the most challenging missions our military has ever known. They left the comforts of home and family, volunteering in service to a cause greater than themselves. They braved insurgency and sectarian strife, knowing too well the danger of combat and the cost of conflict. Yet, through the dust and din and the fog of war, they never lost their resolve. Demonstrating unshakable fortitude and unwavering commitment to duty, our men and women in uniform served tour after tour, fighting block by block to help the Iraqi people seize the chance for a better future. And on December 18, 2011, their mission came to an end. Today, we honor their success, their service, and their sacrifice. In one of our Nation’s longest wars, veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in American military history. When highways became mine fields and uncertainty waited behind every corner, service members rose to meet the task at hand with unmatched courage and determination. They learned languages and cultures, taking on new roles as diplomats and development experts to improve the communities where they served. Their strength toppled a tyrant, and their valor helped build opportunity in oppression’s place. Across nearly 9 years of conflict, the glory of their service – as well as the contributions of other members of the U.S. Government and our coalition partners – always shone through. The war left wounds not always seen, but forever felt. The burden of distance and the pain of loss weighed heavily on the hearts of millions at home and overseas. Behind every member of our military stood a parent, a spouse, or a son or daughter who proudly served their community and prayed for their loved one’s safe return. For wounded warriors, coming home marked the end of one battle and the beginning of another – to stand, to walk, to recover, and to serve again. And, in war’s most profound cost, there were those who never came home. Separated by time and space but united by their love of country, nearly 4,500 men and women are eternally bound; though we have laid them to rest, they will live on in the soul of our Nation now and forever. To them, to their families, and to all who served, we owe a debt that can never be fully repaid. When we returned the colors of United States Forces-Iraq and the last of our troops set foot on American soil, we reflected on the extraordinary service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call. Their example embodied that fundamental American faith that tells us no mission is too hard, no challenge is too great, and that through tests and through trials, we will always emerge stronger than before. Now, our Nation reaffirms our commitment to serve veterans of Iraq as well as they served us – to uphold the sacred trust we share with all who have worn the uniform. Our future is brighter for their service, and today, we express our gratitude by saying once more: Welcome home. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 19, 2012, as a National Day of Honor. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the return of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth. BARACK OBAMA The president should have proclaimed a National Day of Dishonor. There is nothing honorable about the War in Iraq. It was unconstitutional, immoral, unjust, senseless, unnecessary, aggressive, irresponsible, and destructive. Yes, members of the U.S. Armed Forces left “the comforts of home and family,” but what was this “cause greater than themselves” that the president is saying they volunteered for? He mentions the U.S. military helping “the Iraqi people seize the chance for a better future,” toppling “a tyrant,” and building “opportunity in oppression’s place.” And those things were worth the deaths of 4,487 American soldiers? Are those things worth hundreds of thousands of Iraq War vets suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries? Are those things worth thousands of U.S. soldiers missing an arm or a leg, or both? Are those things worth the thousands of war veterans who will need a lifetime of medical and/or psychiatric care? Are those things worth the buckets of tears that Americans have shed over the deaths of their loved ones in Iraq? Are those things worth the deaths of more Iraqis than had ever been killed under Saddam Hussein? The only cause U.S. troops were fighting for was the cause of an aggressive, belligerent, and meddling foreign policy of empire, imperialism, and hegemony. It doesn’t matter what was going on in Iraq. It doesn’t matter how brutal a dictator Saddam Hussein was. It doesn’t matter if women were oppressed in Iraq. It doesn’t matter if religious minorities were persecuted in Iraq. It doesn’t matter if Iraq was a threat to Kuwait. It doesn’t matter if sectarian violence plagued Iraq. It doesn’t matter if Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. It doesn’t matter if Iraqis didn’t have freedom. It doesn’t matter if Iraq had sham elections. It doesn’t matter if the Iraqi government tortured Iraqis. It doesn’t matter if Iraq didn’t have a representative government. It doesn’t matter what weapons Iraq had. It doesn’t matter if Iraq defied the UN. Correcting any or all of these things was not worth one drop of blood from one American solider. Not a scratch, a scrape, or a paper cut. And I am the one who has been called unpatriotic? Because the U.S. military should be limited to the actual defense of the United States, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is not a day of honor. It is a day of infamy, embarrassment, shame, ignominy, and reproach.