Eleven Years of War

Today, the Iraq War turns eleven. If you’re an American, you’d be forgiven for thinking the war in Iraq was over. After all, Barack Obama, after being thwarted in his desperate attempts to extend the American military presence there, has been crowing about how he “ended” the war in Iraq. But the war never ended.

Last night, 13 people were killed when a café in Baghdad was bombed, bringing the total killed yesterday to forty-six. In America, we are still discussing a terrible shooting at a school that killed 28 people, including the perpetrator, over a year ago. In Iraq, more than 2,000 people have been killed just so far this year. Every single one of those deaths, and every single one of the 500,000 killed since 2003, is an entirely foreseeable consequence of American foreign policy.

But today, rather than rehashing the well-known arguments against the war, let us focus on what the war has cost us. The American death toll is well known- 4,489 killed, 32,021 wounded. According to several studies, a minimum of 4% and a maximum of 17% of American veterans of the Iraq War suffer from PTSD. Applying the lower bound to the population of Iraq, we can estimate that at least 1.3 million Iraqis suffer from this debilitating condition, which can cause difficulty sleeping, emotional detachment and outbursts of rage, among other things, and which denies those who suffer from it the possibility of leaving their suffering behind and living a normal life.

Worse still, these victims of the Iraq War, along with the survivors left behind by the dead and the wounded, do not have the support structures American veterans enjoy. American veterans are eligible for disability pensions, career retraining, and free medical care for their war wounds, physical and psychological. However dysfunctional the institutions providing these services may be, American veterans still fare much better than the Iraqi people. The Iraqis, who bore the brunt of the war, are simply left to suffer while some “libertarians” wonder why they are not more grateful for their plight.

The Iraq War was, as wars go, not an especially harsh or brutal one, and was largely conducted according to all the latest precepts of “humanitarian intervention.” The free-fire zones of Vietnam were largely absent, as were the brutalities of massed, prolonged aerial and artillery bombardment. And yet, the results are unimaginably horrific to us in our First World comfort. Sandy Hook and Columbine reverberate to this day in America; in the hell into which we plunged Iraq, neither would even make the front page. There is no war without horrific violence and nightmarish suffering. Never forget.

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