As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.
Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.
With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose.
Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war - The Washington Post
Thousands of women are being illegally held in Iraqi prisons, where they suffer torture and other forms of abuse, including sexual assault, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. HRW said that women in Iraqi prisons — the vast majority of whom are Sunni — have reported being beaten, kicked, and slapped, given electric shocks, and raped, while others have been threatened with sexual assault, sometimes in front of male relatives.
This has been a gut punch to the morale of the Marine Corps and painful for a lot of families who are saying, ‘I thought my son died for a reason.’
I’ll never know why they died. It wasn’t to stop the ‘mushroom cloud’ or to defend the nation after 9/11. It sure wasn’t for freedom, democracy, apple pie, or mom and dad back home.
Iraq War veteran Paul Szoldra from “Tell Me Again, Why Did My Friends Die in Iraq?” in Business Insider.
Imagine how many Iraqis might ask: “Tell me again, why did my friends die in Iraq after Paul Szoldra and the rest of the Americans came?”
Over 135,000 Iraqi civilians were injured in conflict and violence between March 2003 and March 2013 according to Iraq Body Count, but figures from the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry put the number at 250,000 by May 2012. So far in 2013, the French news agency, Agence France-Presse has documented almost 15,000 Iraqis wounded in violence.
As a prelude to Veterans Day, here’s my (somewhat truncated) review of David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Finkel has given us an important book about the toll that the Iraq War took on Americans who served there, but we still await books written with the same depth, care, empathy and literary polish as Thank You for Your Service about Iraqi women killed at American checkpoints, Iraqi men killed by local militias, Iraqi boys killed by car bombs, desperate and homeless Iraqi girls forced into prostitution, Iraqi families chased from their neighborhoods - that is, all those people who didn’t travel halfway around the world to invade, occupy and sometimes kill, but nonetheless found themselves traumatized by the war.
It’s true that, last week, few in Congress cared to discuss, no less memorialize, the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Nonetheless, two anniversaries of American disasters and crimes abroad — the “mission accomplished” debacle of 2003 and the 45th anniversary of the My Lai massacre — were at least noted in passing in our world. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, the Iraq anniversary was memorialized with a lead op-ed by a former advisor to General David Petraeus who, amid the rubble, went in search of all-American “silver linings.”
Still, in our post-9/11 world, there are so many other anniversaries from hell whose silver linings don’t get noticed. Take this April. It will be the ninth anniversary of the widespread release of the now infamous photos of torture, abuse, and humiliation from Abu Ghraib. In case you’ve forgotten, that was Saddam Hussein’s old prison where the U.S. military taught the fallen Iraqi dictator a trick or two about the destruction of human beings. Shouldn’t there be an anniversary of some note there? I mean, how many cultures have turned dog collars (and the dogs that go with them), thumbs-up signs over dead bodies, and a mockery of the crucified Christ into screensavers?
Or to pick another not-to-be-missed anniversary that, strangely enough, goes uncelebrated here, consider the passage of the USA Patriot Act, that ten-letter acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”? This October 26th will be the 11th anniversary of the hurried congressional vote on that 363-page (essentially unread) document filled with right-wing hobbyhorses and a range of provisions meant to curtail American liberties in the name of keeping us safe from terror. “Small government” Republicans and “big government” Democrats rushed to support it back then. It passed in the Senate in record time by 98-1, with only Russ Feingold in opposition, and in the House by 357-66 — and so began the process of taking the oppressive powers of the American state into a new dimension. It would signal the launch of a world of ever-expanding American surveillance and secrecy (and it would be renewed by the Obama administration at its leisure in 2011).
Or what about celebrating the 12th anniversary of Congress’s Authorization for Use of Military Force, the joint resolution that a panicked and cowed body passed on September 14, 2001? It wasn’t a declaration of war — there was no one to declare war on — but an open-ended grant to the president of the unfettered power to use “all necessary and appropriate force” in what would become a never-ending (and still expanding) “Global War on Terror.”