War in Iraq - Dazed and Confused
On June 16 The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution “Declaring the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.”
Because it is such a divisive issue, I’ve avoided expressing my feelings about the war in Iraq. As a former Marine Corps officer, I am all for the troops. As an American citizen and the stepfather of an active duty Marine, I am troubled with the war’s conduct.
Like many, I wanted revenge for the attacks of 911. Attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan seemed logical. When we were told that Iraq posed a threat due to their possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), taking down Saddam Hussein seemed like the next logical step.
Most Americans felt the same way. Among them were tens of thousands of our sons and daughters who volunteered for the armed services. We fielded the finest fighting force in the world. In just a few weeks we had defeated Iraq’s standing army and were pulling down Sadam’s statues. “Mission Accomplished” was the word of the day.
And then things started to go wrong. No WMD were found. We disbanded the Iraqi army, disenfranchising them from their country’s future and allowing much of its leadership to regroup into an insurgency. Because many who ran the electrical grid, the water works, and other critical elements of infrastructure were part of Saddam’s political party, we fired them, disenfranchising them also. Critical services began falling apart.
We didn’t seem to understand that Iraq is a complicated and contentious society. It has two Islamic sects that hate each other. Iraq is a country of tribes whose loyalties are to their tribe first, their religion second and their country third. Whether our intelligence and diplomatic services knew all this, I don’t know. But if they did, and if they passed that information up the chain of command, our leaders weren’t listening.
And then Islamic extremists from other countries began infiltrating Iraq, bolstering an insurgency our modern armed services and intelligence agencies had difficulty combating. Most standing armies have problems defeating guerilla tactics. If the enemy stands and fights,we beat them. But they don’t fight that way. They use the psychological weapon of killing and maiming our troops with improvised explosives devices (IAD’s). I believe that IAD’s have more of a psychological effect on American public opinion than they do on the troops themselves.
Every day the media reminds by of how many of our young men and women have been killed. This week that number topped 2,500.
But we need to put that number in perspective. We are at war. The number of deaths in Iraq has accumulated over the three years we’ve been there. Soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airmen die in war. It’s the nature of the bloody business. Perhaps we forget that in one day, June 6, 1944, the American Army had 5,000 killed on Omaha Beach alone. In one month’s fighting on Iwo Jima the Marine Corps had 6,800 killed in action. During three month’s fighting on Okinawa the Army and Marines had 7,400 killed in ground combat and 5,000 died offshore in ships, many of which were attacked by kamikazes.
My feelings about the war in Iraq can be expressed in one word; confusion.
I’m confused in that now I feel that invading Iraq was a mistake. But even more confusing is my belief that now that we are committed, we must win. Radical Islam poses a danger to the entire Western world. Nuclear technology has been obtained by several Muslim nations, and possibly by at least one Islamic terrorist network. Their philosophy of jihad is as foreign to us as was Japan’s militarism and the Nazi’s ‘final solution. As in World War Two, we are fighting a dangerous and fatalistic philosophy.
Though invading Iraq was an error, and mistakes have plagued our strategy and tactics, we are at war. We must win. We must win or all the deaths and maiming injuries that have occurred in the last three years will be for nothing. If we leave Iraq without achieving our goals, others will continue to challenge us, realizing that if they make us bleed enough, we’ll throw in the towel.
Late last week American fighter-bombers dropped two 500 lb. bombs on a terrorist safe house, taking out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the major terrorist and insurgency leader in Iraq. That attack yielded invaluable intelligence. Since his death, Iraqi and American forces have conducted 452 raids and dispatched 104 insurgents to Paradise.
The Iraqi security chief has even begun talking about the possibility of a draw-down of American troops in his country by the end of this year.
Maybe we’ve turned the corner.
I hope we have.
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