Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. There is now near consensus on the mistake of the war, but too many people see the mistake as a tactical – not a moral – one. If only less Americans died, if only it wasn’t so expensive or if only more oil could have been secured at a good price – so the thought process goes – then surely the war would have been worth it.
To me, this again goes to show the way that money and economics have permeated every thought process. The ethics of war can’t even be discussed normally; the first point raised is usually about money. Even so-called “opponents” of the war, including politicians, only now stand in opposition to the war because of its exorbitant cost. There is no discussion on the legality or morality of the war, only that it was a financial error.
And when discussing lives lost in the war, there is very little concern for Iraqis. I understand that Americans and American media will tend to focus on the deaths of their own, but how is more than 100,000 dead Iraqis not all that relevant? Almost 5,000 Americans have died in the conflict, and this is obviously a terrible tragedy. The point, however, is that even if 0 Americans died, it shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of whether or not the war was a mistake. Upwards of 120,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war, so that should really end the discussion there.
I am glad that nearly everyone now regrets the Iraq War. I just wish that that regret was based more on the 2003 decision to go to war, and not the changing circumstances in how the war played out. The war was built on lies and shaky legal precedents. It shouldn’t have mattered how many people died, how much is cost and how it affected America’s standing in the world. There should have been no support for it to begin with.
In 2003, I was a know-nothing high school student. But I knew enough to oppose the war. I knew that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had absolutely no relation to 9/11, despite what George W. Bush was trying to tell us. A simple Google search proved the president wrong. I knew that because Bush’s reasoning for the war changed after no WMDs were found, that there must be another reason for the war that the public was not being told. If it was actually because of WMDs, then finding no weapons should have led to an end to the war’s justification. But it didn’t. Bush changed the reasoning to one of regime change, which, if we consider the amount of worse regimes around the world, is a dubious reason at best. And I also knew that starting a war in the Middle East is not only a bad way to fight terrorism, but it would lead to more terrorist groups. Which it did.
I also knew that the war would cost a lot of money and that lives would be lost. But that wasn’t really the point in 2003. The war had no legitimate justification. Even as a malleable high school student, I could see through the president’s lies and know enough to oppose a pointless and harmful conflict.
The war was a moral, political, financial and strategic failure. But let’s remember that first and foremost, it was a moral failure.