FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hard Lessons From Iraq

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. As one of the longest and one of the most costly wars in U.S. history, the true costs in dollars, lives, environmental contamination and opportunity costs may never be fully appreciated.  This “preventive war” waged on our behalf has forever tainted the world view and standing of the U.S. Disregarding international and domestic public opinion and international law before the war, this illegal war was destined to happen regardless of that opinion. Perhaps the most significant outcome of the war is the identification and clarification, a “How To” of what doesn’t work in resolving international conflict. Namely war itself.

Dollar estimates of the combined war costs range from $1.4 trillion to $4 trillion dollars spent and obligated or a bill of between $4,500 and $12,742 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.  The human costs and death toll are immense. It is estimated that between 225,000 to more than 1,000,000 have been killed when taking into account all the lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. To this tragedy are added the tens of thousands injured here at home with similar numbers in war zone countries. Significant brain and spinal injuries to coalition forces approach 20 percent and PTSD 30 percent of soldiers. The costs of treating these problems will continue for decades to come.

In a part of the world where poverty and oppression are the norm, identifying and addressing the root cause of conflict is far better than bombs at preventing terrorism and is far less costly.   The respected international mediator John Paul Lederach suggests that going to war to defeat terrorism is like hitting a mature dandelion with a golf club—it only creates another generation of terrorists. That graphic image is very telling in a part of the world where the mean age ranges from17.9 in Afghanistan to 21.1 in Iraq. How will these future generations who lack the meeting of basic human needs respond to our war?

We have fallen victim to the idea that the “ends justify the means” when in reality the means are the ends in the making. Today’s means and realities will determine tomorrow’s reaction and outcome. The continuation of suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan are the desperate response of an occupied people. In his book, Dying to Win, Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago examines in depth the phenomenon of suicide bombing. His research reveals that though religious conviction or revenge may play a role, the vast majority (>95 percent) of suicide bombings always include the primary motivation of trying to push out foreign occupiers.

In a way to somehow sanitize or numb ourselves to the horrific effects of this war we have seen an entirely new lexicon added to our language. From drones (remote spying / assassination unmanned aerial vehicles) to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury – the signature injury to U.S. forces) to collateral damage (killing innocent civilians) to enhanced interrogation (torture) to rendition (torturing prisoners in outsourced countries like Egypt on behalf of the US) to Suicide Bombers.

We are now even marketing drones as a jobs program at home.

We have written whole gymnastic legal treatises to sooth ourselves, and to justify our use of terrorism and assassination of even our own citizens. In the use of these methods, machines and practices have we not become the embodiment of “the enemy”?  What happens when the entire world has the same capabilities and beliefs? What have we created?

These are some of the realities 10 years after launching an entirely preventable war. During this same period we have fallen into financial disarray at home with a significant contribution from these wars. The robbing of our own social fabric to cover these costs will play out for years to come. And yet there are those who would continue to dismantle our social infrastructure to continue this war effort and that of future wars at any cost. These are the facts after 10 years of “preventative war”. How we address the facts at hand will determine our future and that of the world. Indeed conflict is inevitable. War is optional—and a poor one. We have the necessary means to address conflict without war. The means are the ends in the making.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace FoundationBeyond WarPhysicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, andCitizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes for PeaceVoice.

 
More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail