Anniversaries are forced remembrances of events our busy lives otherwise leave forgotten. Past events rush forward through time to spend one day with us in the present, incessantly tapping our shoulders and asking: Remember me? Remember what happened on my day, and what has happened since because of me?
The third anniversary of the aerial "shock and awe" campaign that launched the U.S led war on Iraq will tap our shoulders this month. It will remind us that a fourth year of war stands eager to follow the same terrible path down which this country has been misled for three. War, such as it is, always stands ready and willing, always prepared to gather up its victims from the land of the living, and set them down in their early graves.
Over the past three years, how many Americans have given thought to how many Iraqis have been killed as a result of this profoundly misbegotten war? Truth is thousands upon tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died in the rubble of our misdeeds, along with nearly twenty-three hundred young Americans. That most Americans seem unaware or simply unbothered, blithely evoking the memory of our own catastrophic loss nearly five years ago as justification, has led the global community to conclude that to Americans, non-American life must be cheap.
Such a conclusion is understandable. Killing others for the sake of one's own security does assume their lives have lesser value. As much as Americans might recoil at this suggestion, our collective oblivion to the toll this war has taken on everyday Iraqis only confirms its veracity.
No matter our intentions, when we kill the innocent, we become the enemy, and the ranks of those who wish to do us harm swell in turn. And with each civilian humiliated or killed, the intensity of their hatred and fervor grows. With every passing week the war in Iraq allows an elusive and inexhaustible counterinsurgency to claim further justification for its own inexcusable violence and crimes.
In military terms, this war has been a recruiting sergeant for the very forces of terror our leaders sought to destroy. Rather than controlling terrorism, this war has licensed it, and has endangered rather than enhanced our national security. Iraq itself has become the new Afghanistan, even as we have failed to completely secure the old Afghanistan.
The unprovoked and unwarranted invasion and conquest of Iraq diverted our attention and resources from our proper course: clearing out every terrorist haven - which Iraq was not - and capturing and bringing to justice every terrorist responsible for September 11. Common sense, that one should not start new wars when others are unfinished, was ignored. Rather than chase bin Laden and al-Qaeda to the ends of the earth, we have instead chased our nation's fortune into the mouth of an omnivorous and never-ending war.
Nothing of vital interest to the United States necessitated this misadventure. All justifications for going to war in Iraq save that Saddam was a brutal tyrant have proven vacuous. And all for what cause?
Our continuing presence in Iraq is each day diverting resources from more urgent needs at home and elsewhere abroad. America is draining its Treasury of over a billion dollars a week fighting every prospective terrorist to death in Iraq - a prescription for endless war - that might otherwise be spent here at home improving our national security by fortifying our cities and our ports, and protecting our people against poverty, ill-health, ill-education, and the threats of disaster natural and manmade.
It is time for this gigantic distortion in our national priorities to be called to an end. This war that our leaders have concocted has sapped our military strength, our credibility, our economy, our disaster preparedness, our morale, and our moral standing in the world. It has increased the threats America faces, and reduced the military, financial, and diplomatic tools with which we can respond.
It's getting too late to look ugly. Even our military leaders now admit that the insurgency cannot be defeated by force. Our military is strained to the breaking point, and is increasingly unable to meet its recruiting goals. With its continuing presence in Iraq, the U.S. Army is accomplishing little more than training the future resistance to itself. It is time to bring our troops home.
Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and political columnist living in Eugene, Oregon. Comments are welcomed at: email@example.com.