The 2,000th American military death in Iraq was marked by headlines yesterday, a milestone that nobody in this country is celebrating. The Associated Press also reported yesterday that most credible estimates of Iraqi deaths since the U.S. invasion is 30,000, and I think these are mostly civilians.
For me, the most difficult question is "are these deaths worth it?" I don't support the war in Iraq; I haven't since before the invasion. But I have always "supported the troops," as the mantra goes. These are not contradictory positions. The people serving in the military don't make the decisions about going to war, they carry out the orders passed down from above. Every person who chooses to serve in our military deserves our respect and gratitude. In times of real need, when our security and safety are threatened, these are the people who will be on the front lines. I also support the use of our military for international peace-keeping, or for ending genocide, if these kinds of decisions are logical and supportable.
The problem with the invasion and occupation of Iraq is that the decision to go there was not logical and supportable. There was no compelling reason for this war: Iraq was not involved in the September 11 terrorism, Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, Iraq did not pose a threat to our security and safety. This was a war of choice, not a war of necessity. So yes, our administration has wasted our most precious resource, the lives of our military personnel and the well-being of their families. And these deaths have not been worth it.
Would I tell a grieving military family that the death of their loved one wasn't worth it? This question haunts me, and I don't know the answer. Would I tell Iraqi's that the death and suffering they continue to experience is worth it? Again, I don't know. In the long-term, I hope the Iraqi people achieve some form of democracy and peace. I don't think the U.S. military can pull out now; we have to somehow figure out how to finish what we've started. This means that we have to accept the growing death toll on both sides - a difficult thing to accept.
I've thought a lot about the 2,000 U.S. deaths and the 30,000 Iraqi deaths, and I grieve for them and their families and friends. I only hope that we learn from this mistake, and that we never again allow a President to go to war without a logical and supportable reason.