The 10-year anniversary of the Iraq War is today. My Facebook feed is full of well-meaning civilians sharing photographs of honorable soldiers in venerable poses and elegant yellow ribbons. It seems as if, as time has passed, the anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq has become a gleeful opportunity for some to demonstrate their patriotism.
It is understandable that those that never served, never loved nor lost a soldier or Marine to that war would look at this anniversary without grief. The American military is an all-volunteer force comprised of less than 1% of the population. As fewer Americans serve, the gap between civilians and military personnel widens, leaving subjects such as the Iraq War near-taboo.
The opinion-makers and news personalities setting the tempo for how this war will be remembered rarely emphasize what those close to the military community or combat veterans feel on this day: solemnly reflective and gravely concerned over the health of our nation's moral compass.
From where some of us stand - ten years ago - millionaire politicians and chicken-hawk ivy-league pundits mobilized their resources to persuade an entire nation and the world that "liberating" Iraq would be a cakewalk, that our soldiers and military families were worthy sacrifices to eradicate Saddam's threat to the world and liberate the Iraqi people.
Regardless of your opinion on the Iraq War, given what we've learned this last decade, why are otherwise good Americans equating worship of the invasion with honoring our soldiers and Marines?
After the dust of occupation settled and the trucks roared home, did we not discover awful truths about our politicians and their eagerness to wage war? Did we not reflect at all this last decade on why we went to Iraq and whether that war was the best use of our military's energy?
In light of the last decade of revelations, is comparing this Mesopotamian endeavor to Pearl Harbor (?) or associating Iraq with 9/11 revenge responsible? Does willful twisting of history honor our troops that served? Many Americans cannot pinpoint Iraq on a map, but are intent on "celebrating victory". Some would say this insults our warriors.
It is wonderful that the love of country inspires remembrance, but if we want to support the troops and their sacrifices of the Iraq War, Facebook photos of yellow ribbons don't cut it.
Volunteer with the wounded at the local VA, through a local charity or by donating to a family in need. The next time a horrible policy rips education or healthcare from our veterans, pick up the phone and call the politicians responsible. Or send them an email. It takes 5 minutes to care.
If we want to honor those that served, support the troops by never forgetting that soldiers don't determine foreign policy, we do. Never forget that we elect the opportunists willing to exchange their lives, bodies, families and sanity for international chess games played by the powerful.
If we truly care, we must never forget the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers and children that still live with the consequences of 10 years of constant deployments, emotional, physical and financial losses, and wounds seen and unseen. We must accept it is the American people's responsibility to protect the soldiers of tomorrow from smooth lies and lofty promises of professional liars.
We must never forget where Iraq is in this world, where so many of our patriots lost their lives. We must never forget the Battle for Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, Al Kut, Mosul, the Battles of Ramadi, Sadr City and Samarra. We must never forget the Battle of Haditha and the toll taken on all involved. We must never forget Nasiriyah, Najaf, Fallujah I or II.
We must never forget the 4,804 soldiers lost in Iraq and the 32,221 wounded as well as the tens of thousands of non-combatant Iraqis lost. We must never forget the 3,263 lost and 18,333 wounded in Afghanistan. We must never forget that nearly 22 veterans kill themselves every day. We must never forget that we're still in Afghanistan.
We must never forget that HUMAN LIVES forever altered or lost are the cost of war. We must remember that perpetual war for perpetual peace is not a worthy ambition. We must remember that military resources are not statics. And battles, soldiers, bombs and wars are not merely considerations of policy.
We must value that American tax dollars and military families are not endlessly expendable in pursuit of slippery enemies and nation-building fantasies.
More than 1.5 million Americans served in the Iraq War; some worry their sacrifices were for nothing, some say history will decide, some have tucked Iraq away and moved on, others never will. Instead of warping this day into something it is not, remember them, mourn them and support them by caring beyond the moment.
Most importantly, protect them the next time the establishment politicians and media beat the drums for another war.
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