Accountability for the War in Iraq

The current level of violence in Iraq has a single root: the destabilizing act in 2003 of illegally invading and then occupying Iraq ordered by the George W. Bush administration, with their arrogant claims that US troops would be greeted as liberators. Rather than liberating Iraq, however, our country lost yet another war there, one which left thousands of American soldiers dead, tens of thousands wounded and still more traumatized. We also destabilized the region; slaughtered and displaced Iraqis; left Iraq in a mess; created the conditions for a civil war there; strengthened Iran; created many new advocates of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations; and demonstrated disdain for international law.

The Bush administration led and lied the US into an aggressive war, the kind of war held to be a crime against peace at Nuremberg. The lying was despicable, an impeachable offense, but it is too late for the impeachment of a president and vice-president who are now out of office. The initiation of an aggressive war was an act, however, for which there should always be accountability, as there was at Nuremberg. This, of course, would require having the courage and principle as a country to create policies to hold our own leaders to the same standards that we held those leaders whom we defeated in combat.

The failure of militarism to accomplish any reasonable end, compounded by the terrible and predictable loss of life, is a strong argument for pursuing peace by peaceful means. The most important question confronting the US as a society is: have we learned any valuable lessons or gained any wisdom from our defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan? Those wars demonstrate conclusively that as a country we learned all the wrong lessons (worse than nothing) from the grotesque war in Vietnam.

Shall we send US forces back into Iraq because the intensity of the war there is increasing? That is what those who lied us into the war in the first place would have us do. Shall we follow their advice on the deployment of US military might yet again? It is indisputable that the US has caused and set in motion terrible violence in Iraq. But our military forces cannot reverse the harm we have already done and would likely only make matters worse.

History tells us that the use of US force throughout the world since World War II has always made matters worse for the innocent civilians caught in the conflict. There is no reason to believe that this time would be any different. Should our political leaders fail to learn from our recent history, however, and choose to reengage with a military intervention, we can be sure that not only will there be terrible collateral damage, harming the innocent, but that our own soldiers will pay a heavy price and the problems with our Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals will be greatly exacerbated.