October 24, 2011
Wes Side Stories: Reflecting on the War in Iraq
by Wesley Dugle Oct 23, 2011
Last Friday, President Obama officially stated that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the year.
It was a monumental declaration that appears to have put an end to a struggle that has been going on now for nearly nine years.
It was mind boggling to me to see that the war was officially coming to an end because in all honesty I hadn’t truly thought about it in a long time.
In fact, most of this country has barely talked about it for the last three or four years with the economy tanking and tea partyers and Wall Street occupiers protesting but when you look at the numbers its amazing no one has even taken note of it lately.
More than $800 billion have been spent over in Iraq in this past decade and it’s hard not to think the war’s cost had something to do with our downgraded economy.
Just over 4,400 American soldiers have paid the ultimate price for Operation Iraqi Freedom and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have perished as well and yet it’s barely a blip on the media’s radar.
There’s no anniversary for the war every year like we do 9/11 and yet arguably both are just as important to how America’s foreign policy has been shaped today.
I know the war definitely affected me.
Up until the war broke out I would say I was largely ignorant of the world around me.
Sure, I was in middle school and I didn’t know any better, but the events that happened in the world while I was there in many ways shaped my political and social outlook on the world today.
The events of 9/11 were the first to really change me.
I was too young to really understand just how shocking the event was but it still rattled me nonetheless when I understood for the first time that there were people out there that wanted to destroy America.
It was at that moment my shell of ignorance began to crack and I started to see the world outside of my hometown a little differently.
But just two years later, on March 20, 2003, is when things officially changed for me.
I remember coming home from school that day and seeing my parents watching the television as President George W. Bush declared war in Iraq.
Bush was stating that Saddam Hussein and his regime were connected with Osama Bin Laden and 9/11 and that they were in control of weapons of mass destruction.
This was infuriating to me.
I remember asking myself “Wait, when and how is Osama Bin Laden in cahoots with Saddam? Why are we declaring a war when we should be diverting all our sources to catching the monster who actually attacked us? And why are we issuing a preemptive strike on a country that we think has WMDs while another that actually has them (North Korea) is the one we are negotiating with?”
It was at that point my shell of ignorance shattered and I realized just how screwed up our government was.
It was infuriating to me that we would attack a country prematurely without any hard evidence and waste valuable resources while our economy was hurting and the real monster was still at large.
After that day I learned never to trust my government again, to ask questions, and to not simply just follow the commander in chief and whatever he says (this goes for Obama as well).
It changed me in a way that helped me take more notice of the world around me and dare myself to question what our government tells us is right.
The war has barely been in the minds of many Americans over the last few years however, but either way you look at it this conflict has had a profound effect on this country today.
With all this said though, despite the fact that we should have never been there in the first place, I wish Iraq and it’s people nothing but the best for they have probably suffered more than we have over this conflict.
I really do hope that Iraq can evolve into a stable peaceful democracy and even if we did not go in there for the right reasons I hope that some measure of success and peace is yielded from this war.
The war was one of the biggest events of the last decade and even if most Americans don’t think about it much today, I will never forget the impact it had on me and this country.
Ted Rudow III, MA
Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in a stunning decision that honored the first-year U.S. president more for promise than achievement, and drew both praise and skepticism around the world. But critics called the Nobel committee's decision premature, given that Obama has achieved few tangible gains, as he still grapples with challenges ranging from the war in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea, and now the war on Libya. The raid has further strained ties between the United States and Pakistan. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are calling for a review of billions in aid to Pakistan in light of the revelation that bin Laden was living inside a heavily fortified compound in a wealthy Pakistani suburb. Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf criticized the United States for attacking the compound without Pakistan's knowledge, calling it a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. "It's very important to use this defining moment, I think, to rally the American people and to remind the American people that we are spending trillions of dollars, billions every week, on this open-ended longest war in American history and that we have economic priorities, economic recovery, job creation priorities here in our own country that this money can be used for," U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said. We've got to remove our young men and women from harm's way, and we've got to really make sure that our presence in countries throughout the world does not create more danger and more anger toward the United States, which, you know, diminishes our national security.
Ted Rudow III, MA
Class of 1996