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No Lessons Learned in Iraq

Somerville Journal, Sept. 21, 2014

Paul Shannon

Here we go again! Our leaders have learned nothing from their disastrous war in Iraq. That intervention destroyed Iraq as a country, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, created a repressive government in Baghdad, and set off a sectarian war, opening the gates of hell. Through those gates still another extremist group called ISIS has emerged.

Over the past 13 years our country has already spent one trillion, five hundred billion dollars for war in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East and South Asia. $816 billion was spent for the Iraq war alone. These military actions have drained our country of the resources needed to create jobs and support a well-functioning society.

And yet, after all this blood shed and all this treasure wasted, we are now told that the dangers in the region are even greater than before we got into these wars!

If war is part of the solution in the Middle East, then why did an $800 billion eight-year war with 100,000 U.S. ground troops and the entire U.S. air force and Navy in the region -- in which well over half a million Iraqis and 4,100 U.S. soldiers were killed – not help bring about a solution? If war were part of the solution in the region, why did such and all out "shock and awe" war which bombed Iraq back to the stone age not work out so well?

A sane and moral person might see by now that war is not the best "solution" to the tragic and complex developments we are now seeing in the region. But such clear vision seems to elude our leaders. War seems to be the only thing they know how to do.

In response to the U.S. bombing them, ISIS has beheaded 2 western journalists. Now these brutal acts are being used by the president and congress to whip up war fever once again. But last month our best Arab friend in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, decapitated 19 people – without a peep from us.

In its sweep through Syria and Iraq ISIS is using modern American weapons that we sent into the region during previous military actions that we were promised would bring stability. Instead they are being used by ISIS to conquer large swaths of territory. ISIS’ success has also been possible because of the brutal policies against its own people of the Iraq government that we armed to the teeth, but which refused to fight when challenged by ISIS, handing over our weapons to them.

A war on ISIS coordinated by the United States will cost billions more dollars and further weaken programs that all Americans need. It may or may not stop ISIS, but what new horrors will emerge in response to still another military incursion by foreign "Crusaders"?

The United States does not have an answer to the turmoil in the Middle East, a turmoil which we helped to create starting with our military support in the 1980’s to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan to fight "Islamic fundamentalism" on the one hand and "communism" on the other. But perhaps we can play a role in promoting peaceful solutions over time and supporting humanitarian aid to war victims through international institutions.

The president proposes a new long term war in Iraq and Syria involving air combat, over 1,500 ground troops and weapons and training to some very shady groups. Such a war is wrong, violates international laws and is against the national interest. It’s time to change course and that change begins with the policy: No war in Iraq and Syria. We need to reverse course now not because we are not horrified by the suffering now occurring in the area, but because we are. And we need to reverse the president’s policy because we know that any real solution must come from the peoples of that region themselves, not from a new U.S. war.

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