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The Iraq War had to end

November 10, 2011

By Brian Mitchell

Recently, President Obama announced that U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year after failing to reach a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government.

The president’s decision brings to an end America’s eight year war inside Iraq. Obama did not declare victory.

The Iraq War itself is a failure. Not that any war could, or should be considered a success. In war, all sides lose.

The failure of the Iraq war is not the failure of the American service member. The enormous sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform prove they are our nation’s greatest assets. We have lost 4,481 of our greatest assets in Iraq, and we suffered over 33,000 wounded—20 percent of who are reported as having serious brain or spinal cord injuries.

Many reports from various news outlets seem to solely focus on the amount of money the Iraq War has cost. The financial aspects of the war are inconsequential. Money can be replaced over time, lives cannot.

American troops serving in Iraq have done their duty; we can leave Iraq with honor and be proud of the fact that we served our country in a time of war. The dead have not given their lives needlessly; they made the ultimate sacrifice for their brothers and sisters in arms. In war, service members fight for each other and for their loved ones back home, not for government policy objectives and certainly not for any political “leaders.”

As the last of the Iraq War veterans return home, our nation needs to acknowledge the brave service of the men and women who volunteered to defend our country. We must redouble our efforts to take care of all of our nation’s wounded service members no matter if they were wounded two weeks ago or 60 years ago.
Furthermore, we must acknowledge the sacrifices made by military families in the service of our nation. Many forget that behind many deployed members are loved ones nervously awaiting their soldier’s safe return home.

With the end of the Iraq War in sight, we need to reflect on the beginning of the conflict and learn from the mistakes that were made.

The pretexts for the 2003 invasion of Iraq were to disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, to free the Iraqi people, and to put an end to Saddam Hussein’s support of global terrorism.
At the war’s end, no weapons of mass destruction have ever been found. The Iraqi people, while free from a ruthless dictator, still face daily sectarian violence and millions of Iraqis have been displaced. Furthermore, an estimated 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion.

Of the original reasons for invading Iraq, only the goal of ending Saddam Hussein’s support of terrorism has been fully achieved. However, the war seems to have increased the number of individuals willing to commit acts of terror against the U.S. and her allies.

It also appears to have increased the hard and soft power of Islamic terror groups throughout the world.
What caused the failure of the Iraq War was a failure of leadership. The ineptitude exhibited by various presidential administrations and civilian leadership within the Department of Defense seems criminal.

From failing to recognize that Iraq had no operating WMD programs, to failing to fully explore and prepare for the consequences of invading a country in the middle of a region filled with hostile governments and populations, our political “leadership” failed the American people and the American military.

Hopefully, the Iraq War itself will teach us to question those with the power to send our troops into battle. We need to look objectively at the evidence given for war and not simply trust our political leadership.

The Iraq War had to end; it could not go on forever. American service members did everything that was asked of them and more. Now it’s time for them to come home.

Brian Mitchell is a six-year veteran of the U.S. military and a veteran of the Iraq War.