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Last American Soldiers Left Iraq Early Sunday, War Caused Nearly 4,500 Americans Killed, More Than 30,000 Injured

December 17, 2011

I have no reason not to state the obvious.

The Iraq War was a needless military operation that wasted the lives of nearly 4,500 Americans, cost the nation untold financial resources, and dealt our credibility on the world stage a mighty blow.  

Early Sunday morning (Iraq time) the last U.S. troops in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait, ending almost nine years of a deadly and divisive war.  About 500 soldiers based in Fort Hood, Texas, and 110 military vehicles made the journey south from Camp Adder, near Nasiriyah, to the Khabari border crossing, from where they will head to Camp Virginia in Kuwait before flying home.  They were the last soldiers in what amounted to the largest U.S. troop drawdown since the war in Vietnam.

Over the past years I have allowed this space on the internet to be used as a place to vent against the war, and those who lied our nation into conflict in Iraq.

I voiced opposition to the government when it tried to limit photos of the coffins of dead soldiers returning to the country, and praised the right of journalists to finally be able to report the story.

I have been one of those who have complained about the lack of visibility most citizens have in regard to seeing the full impact of war. I have argued that it is a reporters right to view, photograph, and print images of the flag draped coffins that result from war. More importantly it is the right of citizens to see the full impact of our foreign policy decisions. Over the past eight years the political decision to hide the results of an unneeded war, and to sanitize the results of misguided leadership under President Bush, resulted in such coverage being disallowed.

Over the years I have touched on side angles to the Iraq War such as the one raised by Stephen King and why education matters.  After all, the more educated one is the less likely it is one joins the military.

Bangor author Stephen King has found himself the target of e-mailers and phone callers for what he told high school students while stressing the importance of reading at the Library of Congress on April 4: “The fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that.”

What part of this statement is so hard for folks to understand? Education is the only vehicle that either propels one forward with purpose, while the lack of it stymies all hopes and aspirations. It is that simple. Well, one would think it was pretty straightforward, except if you are a troop greeter in Bangor, Maine.

I have raised the issue many times about the cost of this war, and posted the words from Nicholas Kristof to make a most valid point.

For all the disagreement, there appears to be at least a modest connection between spending in Iraq and the economic difficulties at home. So as we debate whether to bring our troops home, one central question should be whether Iraq is really the best place to invest $411 million every day in present spending alone.

I’ve argued that staying in Iraq indefinitely undermines our national security by empowering jihadis — just as we now know that our military presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s was, in fact, counterproductive by empowering Al Qaeda in its early days. On the other hand, supporters of the war argue that a withdrawal from Iraq would signal weakness and leave a vacuum that extremists would fill, and those are legitimate concerns.

I posted  a letter from my home to a member of congress about the conflicting issues in the Middle East.

The Middle East has always been a highly contentious and volatile area. The history and religions of the area have often blinded both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from finding common bonds. Generations of Palestinians have lived with the knowledge that America funds Israel and supplies them with armaments that are often used against Arabs and Muslims. The utter frustrations and anger that have festered in the Middle East have helped to radicalize many against Israel and the United States. Even the moderate elements of the PLO along with nation-states in that region are facing a more difficult time in urging restraint against the radical elements. And if America strikes in a fashion that only makes it more improbable for moderate voices to be heard, the future looks bleak.

I made note often of the uncomfortable position I was placed as an American when forced to deal with President Bush’s jingoism.

And then President Bush and Company took our country on a nationalistic joy ride where he used the flag as a bumper sticker of support for his war, and his foreign policy. There is no way that I support his foreign policy, or his cowboy mentality on the world stage. Therefore after 9/11 I stopped wearing those clothes, and in fact during our recent move got rid of them. For me the jingoism from Bush and Company is pure rubbish.

I know that I am not alone in my concern about how the symbol of the American flag has become a Republican tool to show support for their causes. During the 2004 election Howard Dean repeatedly told throngs of supporters, as he lifted up a flag, “this is not owned by the Republican Party, this is our flag!” The crowds would roar their approval and understand in their hearts what he meant.

I am troubled by our nationalistic mindset that seems to have trapped so many in America. So I was surprised, and heartened, when a clear minded Obama gave the following response when he was asked about the lack of a flag on his suit jackets.

“Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”

History will judge all that has happened to America and to Iraq from the actions that President Bush took, and equally important that the citizens of this nation allowed him to take.

When the future generations look back on this episode they will do more than rebuke a president or congress.  They must also lay the stain of war and destruction at the feet of the American people for not speaking louder and acting bolder to prevent the war in the first place.

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