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A Lee Greenwood song, “Proud to be an American,” inspired a swell of patriotism 10 years ago. Because its 10th anniversary is being observed this month, some media outlets are looking back on this nation’s war in Iraq.
They don’t inspire much pride.
Retrospectives are useful for lessons-learned purposes. We’d like to highlight several lessons we hope the nation has learned.
Lesson 1: We as a nation must insist our politicians send our young men and women to war only for the noblest of reasons. Self-defense and the defense of our allies fit that category.
“Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies,” a report Tuesday from CNN noted. “A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.”
We challenge anyone to justify the takeover of that industry as a noble reason for the loss of more than 4,000 American lives or the wounding of tens of thousands. Iraqi deaths are estimated to be approximately three times as high. Millions of that nation’s citizens fled their homes to escape violence.
So the oil companies are reaping benefits for which they paid no price, but for which many others – here and overseas – continue to pay.
Lesson 2: We must take to heart a concept we pretend to honor – that of treating others as we hope to be treated. Our invasion of Iraq was one of the latest examples that, for all of the lip service we offer, we don’t understand, and we certainly don’t practice, the concept. The only mindset that can explain that is a belief our victims are insignificant.
Lesson 3: We must also take to heart another concept we only pretend to understand – that actions have consequences. A report aired Thursday on the Democracy Now news program showed it wasn’t just existing bodies that absorbed the brunt of our war. Pictures displayed during that newscast show horrible birth defects “suspected of being caused by the U.S. military’s extensive use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus,” Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail said during the program. “They’re extremely hard to bear witness to,” he noted, “but it’s something that we all need to pay attention to.”
One of the pictures depicts a baby with what appears to be one eye with two pupils, and above it, a growth that could be a misplaced nose. Another tiny body displays a tangle of too many limbs.
The numbers and extent of birth defects in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings, Jamail reported. He talked about a pediatrician tracking the cases, who told him medical terms don’t exist for the types of congenital malformations they’re seeing; they’ve never seen them before.
Lesson 4: We must tell our politicians we will accept nothing less from them short of complete adherence to these values. We must not assume they will honor our values without our instructing them.
War has tragic and far-reaching effects and it benefits only a very few among us. Their gain is not worth humanity’s loss.
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