President Obama’s speech last night on the end of the combat role in Iraq was appropriate in that it didn’t declare “Mission Accomplished,” he didn’t stride across the deck of an aircraft carrier with a sock in his pants, and he paid homage to the men and women who did their job as they were ordered to do. He also did a nice job of honoring the dead and the wounded from all the countries and then turned our attention to what we can do now. In short, it was presidential without being too platitudinous and preachy.
That said, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that we never should have fought that damn war in the first place. No one denies that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who subjugated his people and committed crimes against them and others. In that way he was no different than the leaders of Libya, Syria, Iran, our ally Saudi Arabia, our trading partners China and Vietnam, and even the pariah nations of North Korea, Cuba, and Burma. So why Iraq? Why did we blow nearly a trillion dollars and the lives of so many people? There was no just cause, no righteous vengeance, no direct threat, and certainly no one outside of the Bush administration and a few chicken-hawk think tanks and columnists who live for the masturbatory fantasy of watching other people fight their battles on their idea of a real X-Box who saw it as anything but a disgrace at a terrible cost.
We were lied to, conned, fear-mongered and cowed into going there, and if there was any justice in the world, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of the Bush administration neo-cons who took us there would be held accountable. Some folks would like them brought up on charges in the International Court in The Hague, but that’s show business. Rather, I’d like to see them have to explain to every family of the more than 4,500 Americans who died or the more than 50,000 who were wounded with everything from debilitating physical injuries to PTSD or the more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians and countless others lost as collateral damage, exactly why we waged war against a country that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and, for all intents and purposes, was no different than any other sovereign country in the world that doesn’t embrace Jeffersonian democracy and Wonder Bread.
It will never happen. President Obama didn’t address that; he’s not that kind of person, I guess. But the worst thing we can do — worse than all the tragedies and loss — is to forget how we got there, who led us there, and how much damage the war really caused. We can’t turn the page on that.