We entered this version of the Iraqi war five years ago this week. No one could have guessed (although I’m pretty sure we pay a couple branches to do just that) how miserable the last 60 months would pass. Initially, it seemed like we’d made the best choice by invading Iraq. Americans were still smarting from 9/11 and looking for a culprit to blame. Our leaders told us those villans were in Iraq; we’d find them there. We’d have our justice. We nodded, like scared sheep and laughed at the pacifics. There would be blood and we would enjoy it.
The statues of Saddaam came down. The Iraqi people, Shia and Sunni alike, partied in the street praising Allah that the violent, horrific Hussein tenure was finally finished. In the US, we waved flags, patted ourselves on the backs, praised the administration for a job well done. Alas, the celebration was premature. Saddaam was found in a hole. We watched him assassinated months later. His sons were killed too. Some how we knew these deaths were not our justice, but we celebrated them anyway.
In the meantime, the Shia and Sunni remembered why they weren’t too keen of each other’s views. They retreated to their prospective neighborhoods and came up with a plan: survival meant killing the other. The US was suddenly in the position of courting men we’d never wanted to have a relationship with. Iraqis turned on each other. They turned on the US soldiers trying to create a government and stabilize the region. The Kurds pushed north, strengthening their own communities and trying desperately to stay beneath the radar until they could sharpen their claws against their No. 1 enemy — Turkey.
We watched. Initially, CNN was on every television and news radio drowned out Musak in elevators, the dentist office, the convenience store. But when one year turned into two, we became accustomed to the death and violence of war. It was still disgusting, but not as horrifying as it had been in 2001. Subconsciously, we were disgusted with ourselves. We watched great men fall for the government’s lies and have their careers ruined in the process. Instead of taking to the streets and rioting like other democracies around the world, we went on a shopping spree. We made ourselves feel better at a real estate buffet, borrowing until we couldn’t borrow anymore. Now, five years later, we’re tapped. The war is still killing boys and girls from our hometowns. Iraqis are still understandably upset that they have some of the world’s richest land and yet cannot get a steady government in charge to do anything to protect their resources. Bank runs, democratic candidates tearing each other apart by the limb, and a war that continues to rage — the news is no longer entertaining. We’ve switched from The Economist to US Weekly and hate ourselves for it, but the enemies are much easier to understand in Hollywood.
To the soliders of the United States and all the other countries in the world who’ve selflessly served in this war — my thanks. I am so grateful I live in America and I am incredibly and deeply touched that you are fighting to promote liberty. I have to think that is why we are there; even as the bodies stack up, I have to think the United States had and has good intentions and we are in Iraq and Afghanistan because we want the world to be better tomorrow.
To Iraq, I am sorry we haven’t done a better job of stabilizing your country. I’m sorry this war has taken so long and that so many of your innocents have died in the process. I am sorry that Americans seem bored by the violence that plagues your daily lives. I have hope we’ll be celebrating the incredible economy and stability of your country in five years to come.
That is an anniversary I’ll celebrate.