A little over nine years ago I was sitting in my friend Gavin’s family room watching CNN. It was March 20th, 2003 and I was home from college for the weekend. We were eating pizza and talking about Spring quarter. On the TV: a live feed of Baghdad. In the middle of our conversation my friend stops and said: “holy shit.” I looked at the screen. We were watching cruise missiles impact in the city. I was puzzled, fascinated, and exhilarated all at the same time. We were watching the start of the Iraq War, live. At that time, I was a 19 year-old college student. I felt what I thought was a natural reaction for the teenage American male: let’s kick some ass. The who and why of bombing was far less important than that fact that we were bombing. It was like a video game, cruise missiles live on CNN. It was both awesome and horrifying all at the same time.
Although initially in favor of the invasion of Iraq, I had lingering doubts about the war. I questioned the ethics of invading a country unprovoked. I didn’t buy the whole WMD argument, but it was a convenient cover to justify blowing up some third rate power and quenching my thirst for nationalistic glory. Somewhere inside, I knew the war was wrong. I had nothing against war in general, just this war, but it was hard to stand up and speak out. I felt we should have been more heavily committed in Afghanistan. But I didn’t say anything until after the fact.
On this Memorial Day I think of all the soldiers who lost their lives and health in an optional war. As a country we choose to enter the Iraq War. Personally, the war shattered my faith in the American Presidency. Nationally, the legacy of the Iraq War is one of confusion, debt, and rending of the political unity. The Iraq War will prove to be the defining conflict of my generation. To those who fought, we owe them our thanks but we also owe them our due diligence. The military acts without question, thus civilians must ask the hard questions to make sure that we are worthy of the sacrifices of those who fight under our flag.
The Iraq War was a collective disaster on a strategic level. As asserted in the film “No End in Sight”, the Bush Administration engaged in minimal pre-war planning as to the post-war reconstruction of Iraq. This left our soldiers outfitted for the incorrect style of mission, combat operations as opposed to nation building. This has nothing to do with the effort of American soldiers. However, most important is the financial aspect of the war. The Wall Street Journal asserted that “cost of the war will continue for decades until taxpayers have shelled out an estimated $4 trillion.” In addition, the Journal indicates that at the time of the article in December 2011, while the spending on the war “equals only 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, it’s more than half of the national budget deficit.” Even worse is that these costs were pushed off to the next generation by choice. The Bush Tax Cuts shifted the cost to those who could not vote. This is a shameful dereliction of duty by our politicians.
We must remember that war is not always a choice. However, when it is, we must choose very carefully because once we walk down the path of conflict the consequences are severe. On this Memorial Day I would like to thank and honor our troops that have offered up the ultimate sacrifice. Hopefully our society will remain worthy of that sacrifice in asking the questions that our soldiers are not allowed to ask.