An Iowa View of the End of Iraqi Combat Operations
by Paul Deaton
thing is that there are no good answers to the question of “was it worth
it?” In our family, and among our friends and neighbors who served in
Iraq, we know and respect what they did. That goes with out saying,
because even if our leaders get it wrong, the devotion to our country is
strong where we live.”
In between dinner and an evening project on Wednesday, the author turned on the television to see NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel riding in the back of a military vehicle, crossing the border between Iraq and Kuwait. This video coverage was planned in secret (according to MSNBC) between the military and NBC to represent the “end of combat operations in Iraq.” I turned off the television and went to work on my project, not ready to agree that, with more than 50,000 soldiers left behind to conduct stability operations, the casualties and conflict of the Iraq war were finished, even if carefully planned images were being presented that “combat operations” were.
The wars in Iraq have been with us for so long, they have become a part of the background of our family life. During the first gulf war we kept a photo of a friend stationed in Iraq, framed with a yellow ribbon across it. We wanted our young daughter to feel a connection to the reality of military service and what goes on in war time. His occasional letters, about operations in Baghdad and in the Kurdish areas served that purpose. We also wanted to support our troops.
In the interim between our two wars with Iraq, both Presidents Clinton and Bush took steps to ouster Saddam Hussein from power and encourage regime change in Iraq. It was during the Clinton administration that removing the Saddam Hussein regime became official United States policy with the 1998 passage of the Iraq Liberation Act.
With the election of Bush-Cheney in 2000, the United States began movement towards a more aggressive Iraq policy and the realization of the long standing desire of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to invade Iraq and remove Hussein. Then came the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when events accelerated towards the invasion.
On March 19, 2003, when President Bush announced the decision to invade Iraq the resonances of September 11 were evident, if the behind the scenes motivations of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were not. Bush said, “the people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.”
Evidence of the connection between Saddam Hussein and the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks did not exist. The existence of “weapons of mass murder” was later found to be unsupported by the intelligence. These things caused many citizens to believe that the second Iraq war was based on lies. The expectation is that history will bear out the needlessness of this war.
Yet Wednesday was the proclamation, with video evidence, of the “end of combat operations.” In his statement on the event, President Obama wrote, “shortly after taking office, I put forward a plan to end the war in Iraq responsibly. Today, I'm pleased to report that thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops.” The president focused his message on caring for our troops in the aftermath of the war, saying, “our commitment to our troops doesn't end once they come home – it's only the beginning. Part of ending a war responsibly is meeting our responsibility to the men and women who have fought it. Our troops and their families have made tremendous sacrifices to keep our nation safe and secure, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.” Click here to read President Obama's entire statement on ending the Iraq war.
The United States enacted its policy of removal of Saddam Hussein and regime change in Iraq. President Obama is moving towards removal of the remaining United States Military personnel from Iraq in 2011. Hopefully, Senator Grassley and the Republicans will join with the administration to improve the post-war life for our veterans, including adequate treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). These items can be ticked off a check list if anyone is keeping one.
The thing is that there are no good answers to the question of “was it worth it?” In our family, and among our friends and neighbors who served in Iraq, we know and respect what they did. That goes with out saying, because even if our leaders get it wrong, the devotion to our country is strong where we live.
At the same time, besides regime change, what did we get for the Iraq war? Some would say we got a lot of grief, debt and lost and damaged lives. Military contractors received plane loads of cash. We caused significant damage to Iraqi infrastructure. Perhaps the Iraqi people are freer than they were under Hussein…time will tell.
In the end, when we finally withdraw the military advisers and support, and everything we plan to take with us is gone, Iraq may fade from our immediate view, just as it had before the discovery of its oil reserves. A dream, or perhaps nightmare, where our friends and neighbors fought valiantly and the true motivation of the leaders who brought us into the war may never be known.
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul