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Coming home when it’s over, over there

Op-Ed by Clyde Winter

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There have been over 60,000 official U.S. casualties, and about 4,000 U.S. dead in Iraq. So far. (That doesn’t count, for some reason, the “private contractors.”) There is no rural community, no urban or suburban neighborhood, without families that have suffered devastating combat casualties in this opening decade of the new millennium. Some 700,000 Iraqis have been killed, and 4 million made refugees. No community can escape the long-term effects of the unprecedented escalating cost of the occupation of Iraq. The direct cost (just in U.S. tax dollars alone) of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has now climbed to over $500 billion, and the water’s still rising fast.

The people of Iraq will note the date of March 11, 2003 not merely as a historical incident, but as the beginning of a foreign occupation that continues to make changes and wreak havoc on every aspect of their lives. A tiny but important percentage of the people in the USA will feel similarly impacted. Americans just now entering the military, and bound shortly for Iraq, were merely children in elementary school when the false reasons for the invasion were being repeated incessantly by the administration, and were going unchallenged by most of the major media and by almost all members of Congress.

Military personnel are not responsible for the orders they have been issued. They are responsible for the way they carry out those orders. And there is no question that American service men and women in Iraq have carried out their orders as diligently and courageously as any generation of Americans who preceded them throughout our history.

Speaking the truth does not necessarily undermine support for the troops currently in Iraq. In the first place, military personnel are best supported by committing them to combat only when and where truly necessary. The horror and terror of war should only be unleashed as the very last resort. And an aggressive, unjustified invasion of a sovereign nation that had not attacked us (and even had no capability to do so) violates human rights, international law, solemn treaties the U.S. has signed – and the simple distinction between right and wrong that we have all been taught.

Troops that have been sent in harms way on a mis-targeted mission are best supported by promptly recognizing the mistake that put them there, not by rhetorically rationalizing the mistake, changing the subject, and blaming someone else. Not by swaggering and singing stupid parodies of a song (“bomb-bomb-bomb; bomb-bomb Iran”) that threatens to do the same to yet another country. Not by glib talk about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq “for another hundred years.”

Recognizing and reacting appropriately to this continuing unjustified use of military force does not disrespect the courageous troops who have followed orders and answered the call of duty. In contrast to them, the discredited neo-con officials, including the president and vice president, who stepped in it by ordering the invasion of Iraq five years ago, had all managed to avoid any experience of combat themselves, when they stepped aside during the 12 long years of opportunity they had to demonstrate their personal brand of patriotism during the occupation and counter-insurgency in Vietnam.

World War I was over and won about a year and a half after the U.S. entered the war. World War II was over and won in Europe a year after the Normandy invasion. Why do the neo-cons and the media who started this mess think that U.S. troops have not yet won the war in Iraq, five long years after the invasion? I’ve got news for the neo-cons and the media. That war was won so decisively, within a few months, that there wasn’t even anybody left standing in charge of Iraq and its military, who could offer an unconditional surrender when it was over, over there, in 2003.

These neo-cons should honor the U.S. troops for their quick and courageous victory. Instead they have loaded the warriors with interminable stop-loss and multiple redeployments, implying falsely that the troops haven’t yet “won the war,” and can’t go home and stay home until the chicken hawks are satisfied and let them. The bosses even failed to provide military necessities, and have cut back and neglected essential services to grievously wounded veterans who’ve been returning by the tens of thousands from this occupation and counterinsurgency.

This isn’t about pushing on until victory is won. Whether the invasion should or should not have occurred, the military victory was won long ago. It’s now about an occupation, and whether it should continue.

The neo-cons can never justify the invasion of Iraq by denial and by playing the shell game with reasons for war. The reasons given to the Congress, the United Nations and to the people, prior to the invasion, were false. Period.

While military force can be used to break it, military force can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. The incredibly difficult problem now challenging the troops on occupation duty in Iraq, is how do you occupy and “pacify” a country that has been unjustly invaded? How can an insurrection that arises from an unjust invasion be ended without mass murder and terror? Should we even try? If America were so invaded and occupied by a foreign power, wouldn’t you fight and resist the occupation, and join and support, even organize an insurrection? What self-respecting patriot would not do so?

Please do your part, as you see fit, to end this tragic occupation, and to bring our troops home now (along with all the contracted mercenaries). Whatever else you do or do not do, whether you agree or disagree with my previous points, please click the link in this sentence to the Disabled American Veterans website and support our disabled vets in any and every way you can.

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