So five years ago we invaded Iraq. Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have died, more than 29,000 have been injured and the war has cost us roughly $500 billion. And the stat often left out of the news is Iraqi casualties. They’ve been estimated at over 1 million, though they vary wildly depending on when and where you get your numbers.
President George W. Bush has been speaking about the progress in the war on the anniversary:
“For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al-Qaida rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaida out” (Star Tribune)
Nevermind that if al-Qaida is in Iraq at all, they’re there because we invaded.
Sigh. War is a messy thing. It’s a bit embarrassing that the rationale for the war has changed over these five years, from the weapons of mass destruction that were never found to freedom as God’s gift (Jon Stewart noted if that if God gave us freedom, and we gave it to Iraq, then we’re superficial re-gifters—sometimes humor like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is the only way I can stand politics). I’m not so sure freedom is the God-given virtue we like to claim it is. I talked about this five years ago (all the way at the bottom) and about a week ago in side comments (again, all the way to the bottom of the comment) in a sort-of-related blog post. Freedom is great, don’t get me wrong. But you can live without freedom. I find it much harder to live without love, grace and mercy.
Reading through my other war-related blog posts from five years ago shows how conflicted I am about war (War is a Tricky Thing, A War Broke Out Today). I have a hard time deciding when war is justified and when it’s not. Just consider the case of a German fighter pilot from World War II who shot down and killed his favorite author (link via Kottke).
Reminds me of a comment from Bart Simpson: “There are no good wars, with the following exceptions: The American Revolution, World War II and the Star Wars Trilogy.”
I also appreciate the experiences of activist Shane Claiborne who visited Iraq in March 2003 when U.S. bombs were raining down (he shares stories from that experience in his Iraq journals and in his book Irresistible Revolution). He did it to stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in the process experienced some amazing grace. But as much as I appreciate his experience, it also seems too idealistic for the real world. It seems like it means standing by while great injustice occurs.
Sometimes justice can only come by force. And then you’re bringing death and pain along with the justice. You’ve got to figure out when the justice is worth the price. And it’s always easier in hindsight.
I just wonder how much longer the mess in Iraq will continue. How long until we see an end to the violence? How long must we sing this song?