The Unpaid Bills of the Iraq War
Charles P. Pierce
If you don’t count the contractors, and the embassy the size of Rhode Island, the fact that an awful lot of non-Iraqi someones are making a buck over there, and the long, bloody folly of it lodged in our historical memory like a kidney stone, the Iraq War pretty much ended on Wednesday with the president’s speech at Fort Bragg. Or, at least, events were arranged so that whatever happens in Iraq henceforth can be more conveniently ignored. As the ever-essential Marcy Wheeler points out, Rand Paul tried to end the war officially a while back and two-thirds of the Senate voted against him, and the war never will truly be “over” until the authorization to start it in the first place is expunged from the law books.
We owe some terrible bills over this. We owe them to ourselves, for letting ourselves get duped and fooled by a passel of profiteers and geopolitical magical-thinkers into a war that we kept saying, over and over again, that we didn’t want. We owe them to ourselves because of the ongoing wreck we’ve made out of the constitutional order. (If it weren’t for the Iraq war, torture wouldn’t be a topic for Serious Discussion in this country.) We owe it to ourselves because, confronted with the crimes and savage maladministration that led us into this mess, we have resolutely declined to hold any of the criminal bastards who perpetrated it responsible for their offenses against this nation. That’s why they’re out there on Fox, telling everyone how terrible it is that their pet war is allegedly coming to an end. To borrow a line from Bruce Springsteen, to thousands of dead and wounded service people, and their families, and for turning the name “Walter Reed” into a synonym for dysfunction and neglect, we owe debts no honest man can pay.
We owe some terrible bills to the world for blundering around like a blind ape with a bazooka in the most volatile section of the planet. We owe them to the world for sneering at the French and laughing at the Canadians when they wouldn’t follow us into the quagmire just because we said they should. We owe them to the world for our belief in our invincibility. If we’d armor-plated our Humvees as thickly as our politicians armor-plated their self-righteousness, a lot of soldiers would still be alive. We owe them to the world for re-electing C-Plus Augustus and his soulless vice-president in the middle of what we already knew was a hubristic bungle of historic proportions.
We owe some terrible bills to the Iraqis. We slaughtered their citizens, demolished their infrastructure, and touched off a godawfully predictable civil war in which more of those first two happened. We left them refugees in their own country. We left them refugees in a whole lot of other countries. We should at least make a proper, humble accounting of all of this for ourselves.
On Wednesday, the president said that the Iraq War belongs to history. This, of course, is true. So, for that matter, does whatever he had for breakfast that morning. But history is not just all the stuff that happened in the past. It’s why all that stuff happened in the past. It’s who made all that stuff happen in the past. Until that accounting takes place, the war does not belong to history. Vietnam doesn’t even fully “belong to history” yet. Our politics are still fought out over the fault lines created during that previous exercise in waste and treachery. I suspect – nay, I fear – that a great effort will be made among our political elites not to let that happen again here. Nobody will want to be “divisive.” We will move forward. It will not be allowed to affect our current politics, except as a handy tool with which the war-hungry claque in our conservative foreign-policy elite can bang the president over the head a few times.
The Iraq War will “belong to history” in the sense that it will be buried there.
That will not pay all the bills. And until those bills are paid – until the proper people pay the proper recompense for what they did to this country, to that country, and to the world – the Iraq War is not over.
Source: http://uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=25166, December 18th, 2011