Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leaving Iraq


The Iraq War began on a Wednesday in March of 2003. I was a high school student at the time, and although the media was as excited about the story as a kid with a new toy, all I remember feeling that day was absolute dread. I had listened to all the arguments as to why we were going to war, but the fact that so much of the international community was against the war, made me wonder what was really going on behind the scenes.

Now a college graduate and many, many news reports, interview, memoirs, and documentaries later, I still feel that same sense of dread when talking about the war. Over the years, I have seen almost the entire argument for war fall to pieces. The WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) were never found. Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, who surrendered after the fall of Baghdad, continues to claim, as Saddam Hussein did before his execution, that they only said they had weapons in order to deter their Iranian neighbors to the east. Hussein was not posturing to the West, but to Iran, whom Iraq had been at war with from 1980-1988. But despite this fact, America went to war without any real evidence that Iraq was working to build WMDs.

Once the war began, much of the information and news coming out of the country was from journalists who were imbedded with American armed forces. They lived, ate, and slept next to each other. While it made sense that these journalists were imbedded for their own safety, it also created an atmosphere of stories that were constantly pro-American and pro-war. No journalist in their right mind would write a story that painted those soldiers responsible for his/her life in a negative light. This led to a compromised environment where the truth was not always told. Pure, unadulterated journalism became contaminated by the hand that fed it.

I’m not sure that we will ever know if the Bush Administration knew what they were doing in the lead up to the Iraq War. Did they actually believe Saddam Hussein was the threat they made him out to be, or did they want this war so badly that they took whatever questionable intelligence they could get their hands on and ran with it regardless of the gaps in information? Before the war began, the American intelligence community was feverishly searching for connections between Saddam Hussein and terrorism, but with little to no information to make this connection, the Bush Administration decided to move ahead anyway.

No one will argue against the fact that Hussein was a terrible dictator responsible for many atrocities and crimes against humanity, but if that is to be America’s reason for entering war, then why are we currently not fighting in North Korea or Sudan? War should always be the last resort after all other options have been exhausted. First deciding to go to war and then looking for evidence is a terrible precedent to set for the future of the international community.

With the exception of 50,000 troops who will remain “with a mission limited to stability operations and advising and assisting Iraqi security forces,” all U.S. combat forces will have left Iraq by the end of this August. This has left many Iraqis with a great sense of trepidation. With the economy in shambles, violence rising, and a government that is still in flux months after elections, many are worried that their government is not ready to run the country without American assistance. Even the chief of staff for the Iraqi army, Gen. Babakir Zebari has publically said that the Iraqi military will not be ready to operate on its own for another ten years.

Only future generations will be able to decide whether or not the Iraq War was ultimately worth it, but as it stands today, far too many Iraqis long for the days of the past where electricity and jobs were abundant and the future didn’t look so uncertain. In the years ahead, the world will be watching the development of Iraq. Iraqis must work together to secure a peaceful and prosperous future free from the ills and problems of the past, while also making sure to learn from their experiences.

Many mistakes were made in this war. Although, the consequences of making preemptive strikes, discarding the intelligence community, and oppressing journalism have become very clear for the United States, we do have a history of repeating our wrongs. It is difficult to truly understand how many lives have been affected and destroyed by this war, but we all owe it to those who have suffered to make the future of Iraq the best it can be. It is one thing to identify where the U.S. went wrong in Iraq, but the true measure of growth and success will come from not making the same mistakes again.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

Great entry, Jill! I hope the next generation uses the abundance of information at its fingertips to remember the past and not let atrocities like this "war" happen again.

2:24 PM

 

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