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Why 2K?

October 26, 2005
By Joseph Hughes

The 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 are today.

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, is "doubtful."

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/).

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