October 26, 2005
By Joseph Hughes
U.S. death toll in Iraq has hit 2,000. While the cost of our invasion
of Iraq is far greater than numbers quoted in a news report, we
must take the time to reflect on what has happened, what has got
us to this point and what to do from here.
A little over two years ago, on May 1, 2003, President Bush stood,
triumphant, on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and proclaimed,
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq,
the United States and our allies have prevailed." Behind him flew
a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."
As of that speech, 139 Americans had died in Iraq. Since, as Bush
said, major combat operations have ended and the United States and
our allies have prevailed, 1,861 more Americans have paid the ultimate
price. Two thousand Americans. Thousands more maimed, seriously
wounded or left with lifelong mental scars, to say nothing of the
toll the war has taken on the Iraqis themselves. And for what?
Two thousand have died and the mission still hasn't been accomplished.
Two thousand have died and freedom still hasn't marched. Two thousand
have died and the course we're staying still hasn't been defined.
Two thousand have died and the president still hasn't crafted the
excuse that explains away a single flag-draped coffin.
As we reach this tragically important milestone, questions remain:
what does "victory" look like in Iraq? Does it look like 2,000 dead
Americans, countless thousands of dead Iraqis, a prolonged insurgency,
no end in sight and civil war on the horizon? Was this the desired
outcome when we so brazenly shifted our focus from Afghanistan to
Iraq? How many more Americans must die before our president honestly
answers these and many more questions?
Many knew invading Iraq was a mistake. The administration and
its surrogates decisively attacked those with the courage to speak
out, to put cracks in the façade that threatened to expose a pattern
of disastrous lies. To silence Joseph Wilson, the administration
went so far as to expose his wife, a covert CIA operative working
on – of all things – weapons of mass destruction.
When it wasn't putting politics above national security, the administration
sought to silence all dissent. Anti-war protesters were labeled
un-American. For wanting peace, for wanting answers, for wanting
the truth, many patriotic, law-abiding Americans were branded as
freedom-hating terrorists only slightly higher on the scale than
the actual terrorists themselves.
Meanwhile, as the death toll rose, two things were occurring.
First, private contractors were doing the work typically reserved
for our armed forces – and making a fortune doing so. Second, downward
pressure led to widespread human rights violations, both at Abu
Ghraib and at Guantanamo Bay. When Americans wanted answers, they
were criticized. When they wanted evidence, they were denied.
As the administration kept soldiers in Iraq far longer than promised,
they not only failed to adequately protect them with proper armor
when they were there, but they also neglected them once they returned
home, vastly undercutting their health benefits. And, once American
soldiers died, the administration also callously ignored grieving
mothers like Cindy Sheehan, going so far as to use the right-wing
noise machine to badmouth a woman who paid the ultimate sacrifice,
whose only crime was wanting to know why her son was killed. While
this happened, the death toll steadily rose, leaving us where we
Has any of this registered with the war president, the commander-in-chief
who hasn't yet attended his first military funeral? Has it registered
with his secretary of defense, who wasn't even personally signing
killed-in-action letters? The answers to both questions, sadly,
Try as they might to ignore the bottom line, the administration
can't look past this dreadful news. We can't let them.
Joseph Hughes is a graphic designer and writer by day and a
liberal blogger by night. Read stories like this and many more at
his blog, Hughes for America (http://hughesforamerica.typepad.com/).