This week marks the third anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. I have spent some time today reading articles online about these past 3 years; where we have been and where we are going. At this point, 2,314 Americans have been killed in Iraq. The official count of Americans wounded is over 18,000. The number of Iraqi people killed is officially around 30,000, although some reports place that number closer to 45,000. The number of wounded Iraqi people is over 100,000. The financial cost of the war so far is estimated to be between $200 and $250 billion.
So, is it worth it? Has something been gained that is worth the cost of over 35,000 lives, thousands and thousands of missing limbs and charred flesh, billions of dollars? I’m not asking that question because I know the answer. I don’t and I’m not sure anyone else knows the answer yet either. The most moving article I ran across was an online slideshow that told the story of 4 young soldiers wounded in Iraq. This is the link. When you get to that page, go down the list and click on “Wounded in the Line of Duty.” These young men, just kids really, are heros who believed there was honor in what they were being asked to do and have ended up making some pretty incredible sacrifices on behalf of their country. They represent the thousands of stories just like theirs. I hope, for their sake, that it has been worth it. Even if it ultimately proves that their sacrifice was not worth the gain, we owe them our support and respect and gratitude for being willing to step up and pay the price based on decisions that were made by our leaders. I was moved to tears by their stories and I hope you will go and watch the slideshow in their honor.
Here’s what scares me about this war, beyond the obvious things. I am troubled by the pervasive attitude in our country today that questioning the war or the president’s decisions makes you “unAmerican” or “unpatriotic.” I am troubled by the tendency of many American Christians to elevate patriotism as a virtue to a level equal to or synonomous with personal holiness…as if Jesus was an American and loves us more than He loves the Iraqis. I am troubled by the arrogance with which our leaders speak to us when we ask questions about when our kids can come home from Iraq and if anyone has a plan to end this war; like we are naughty, stupid children who need to be spoken to more slowly and firmly. I am troubled by the exploitation of our fear of terrorism to justify the torture of human beings and illegal spying on our citizens…just like our fear of communism was exploited during the McCarthy hearings in the last century (if you haven’t seen the movie “Good Night, and Good Luck” you definitely should.)
My husband’s take on this war is that we won’t know in this generation whether or not this has all been worth it. He believes that it may take 20 years to know if these actions marked the beginning of the long-term stabilization of the Middle East. He’s a pretty smart guy and he may very well be right (don’t tell him I said that 🙂 Perhaps, in our microwave society, we are too concerned with quick fixes and immediate results. Perhaps, it is too soon to know whether all of these people, Americans and Iraqis, have died in vain…or those 4 young men in the slideshow have suffered in a useless cause. But, I would suggest that we can’t allow ourselves to become calloused to those death tolls or the stories of the wounded. We have to keep asking the questions and demanding the answers. And keep praying for ALL the people involved, not just the Americans.