I Hope It’s Not Too Late
Each Monday night on my radio show I read a list of coalition members who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. Rather than just a number tally, we include names and towns of those brave men and women who had real lives and real families whose lives are forever altered by the unspeakable tragedy of this war. As of Sunday, March 23, according to icasualties.org, the Department of Defense had confirmed 3,992 American deaths, with eight more pending DoD certification. This brings the number to 4000. In the 1,829 days of this war there have been 4,308 deaths all-told, with our closest war ally, Great Britain, suffering 175 losses. That was enough to unseat Tony Blair, whose otherwise progressive agenda was derailed by his support for Bush and this war. Thanks to a system of government much more flexible than ours, Britain was able to show him an early exit.
And the 4000 number, which will be all over the news this week, and devastating as it is, tells only a fraction of the story. One hundred forty-five American service members died of self-inflicted wounds. The wounded totals 29,314. And incalculable are the number of lives forever altered because loved ones never returned home, or came back with disabilities that will never fully heal; marriages broken, engagements terminated, children who will never know their parents or who many know them only as hostages to wheelchairs or hospital wards.
And no statistic can accurately portray the emotional toll this war of choice has taken and will continue to take for years to come on military heroes and their families who will have to cope with mental illnesses, the kind of suffering that can never be calculated by numbers, and which is still too often unrecognized and stigmatized in our society.
Iraq Body Count reports between 82,267 and 89,778 documented civilian deaths from violence in Iraq. These were the Iraqis we went there to help, to offer a better life because our leaders determined that they’d be better off in a “democratic” Iraq. Multiply that number by the number of family members affected, relationships shattered, and the mental illnesses that don’t count when you tally only injuries to physical body parts.
For those whose justifiable, even if misdirected, anger about losing more than 2000 Americans on September 11 is used to justify this foreign policy disaster, I wonder how many more fatalities in a country that was never a threat to the United States will be required to recognize the tragic folly of this conflict. How many more innocent civilian deaths, ruined families, atrophying bodies and mental nightmares of the soul?
And if some day, years from now, the warring factions in Iraq that we can never control, and never convert to our way of life, and certainly not at gunpoint; if some miraculous day Iraq evolves into the world actor we were one told it could be in short order and is healed, will we ever be?
George Washington first referred to our system of government as “the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by reasonable compact in civil Society”, in a letter to English historian Catherine Macaulay Graham, on January 9, 1790. That phrase inspired the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville to travel 8000 miles to our shores in 1831 to research his classic Democracy in America, and President James Garfield, in his inaugural address on March 4, 1881, to refer to “the great experiment in self-government.” Ironically, just like so many victims of the Iraq war, Garfield lost his life much too soon, becoming the second shortest-serving United States president after an embittered attorney hoping for a government appointment shot him only four months later.
And we still refer to our young and evolving government as a great experiment. But we ignore the wisdom of Founding Father Washington who warned against foreign entanglements. And although he never used those exact words in his farewell address, he did say, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” I worry that if we don’t go back to the original intent of our prescient founders, and soon, something inside of us living through this time will have died. I hope it’s not too late.
[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=AtPdzr5omIo]Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2008 Liberaland