The brutal hand of war has slapped Iraq in the face already, shaking its foundation to every bone and leaving permanent red marks all over its fragile face. The debate over the reason for going into this war has been endless, and so should it be. But for now, just for a moment, one has to put that debate aside. What ought to be paid attention to is the human cost of this war, for those who begin such wars will try to play it down and leave the door ajar for such future endeavors. The only way to deny them another opportunity at shedding blood to make money is to bring out the rivers that they have caused to their face.
The “Masters of War” claim that the war in Iraq was worth it, that a people have been freed, that a society has been democratized. In fact, ask credit for what they consider a triumphant mission. They thank the Iraqis for fighting the tyranny of Saddam and standing firm for a new dawn. But they do not mention the roughly 100,000 Iraqi lives that have been lost since 2003, eaten up by the beast of war. They thank the servicemen/women for their excellent job at doing what they had been asked to do. But they do not mention the number 4734, those who lost their lives for a war they had no say in. And, of course, they ask for the veterans to be will taken care of, to be treated as heroes. But they do not mention the thousands who will live with the brutal scars of war itched on their hearts and minds. As Dexter Filkins of the Times will tell you more eloquently than anyone, once in a war it never leaves you.
In May 2003, a Gallop poll showed that as high as 79% of the Americans believed that the Iraq war was justified despite the lack of conclusive evidence that Saddam possessed WMDs. Only after shit hit the fan big time did the support for this unjustifiable war dwindled a little. Even then, it never went bellow 30 percent.Now the combat in Iraq comes to a supposed end, that’s where tremendous work remains to be done: the public consciousness.
The American public, despite scattered protests, did not oppose this war resolutely. As the poll shows, 79% of them, on the right and left, fell for the bogus justifications that kept changing every day.
Moving forward, there is no doubt that warmongers will always try to advance their agendas and push for war. For them, war is the only way of life. War is business. But at this moment in time, as a window of reflection opens up, the public needs to ponder the human costs of this war. It needs to fully understand the devastating impact of one president’s hasty decision on the lives of millions.
The New York Times has devoted tremendous space and energy to covering the “Legacy of the Iraq War” as the Combat mission is declared over. Anthony Shadid has an immensely moving piece on the war’s unknown casualties. He chronicles one family’s five-year search for their lost son, only to find him amidst the thousands of unidentified corpses at the Baghdad Morgue.
The horror of this war is its numbers, frozen in the portraits at the morgue: an infant’s eyes sealed shut and a woman’s hair combed in blood and ash. “Files tossed on the shelves,” a policeman called the dead, and that very anonymity lends itself to the war’s name here — al-ahdath, or the events.
And their blog, At War, has reflections from the reporters who covered this conflict from the first day.
Stephen Farrell best captures the tone of this war in his entry. When he tried to get a young Iraqi’s reaction to the American agenda for democratizing Iraq, the young man “listened politely. He assessed what he had just heard about democracy and new freedoms, and then pronounced:
“I am free to read the newspaper I want, but what I will read is that my mother is dead.”