March 19 (March 20, Baghdad time) marked 10 years since the start of the Iraq war. Some 4,500 American service members lost their lives, and more than 33,000 were wounded.
It is important that we use this benchmark to reflect and learn from our successes and our failures and that America uses these experiences to better assist in future policies of wars to come.
As a Marine veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, in 2003 and in 2004, I have had firsthand experiences of some policies that worked and those that didn’t.
It is important to recognize that the war had three unique phases, each requiring a change in political and military policies as the war progressed.
The first phase began with the initial crossover into Iraq and its engagement of Iraqi military forces, eventually leading to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime. America and its partners had won and the Iraqi citizens became free from the atrocities of an oppressive regime.
This was a war that America had experience with: It was a war between two military foes, and our top brass used proven military tactics to win.
Around late summer of 2003, America’s military mission had changed into the fugitive apprehension of Saddam. Units became cross-trained, Marines were being used as occupational forces, and the National Guard units became part of the main force.
They were performing duties that they were not designed for, and in the process the unit’s specialties became normality. Policies that worked in the past were not conforming to the needs of the time, lessons were learned and lives were sacrificed.
Eventually, the apprehension of Saddam led to the progression from fugitive apprehension to missions of peacekeeping, a role not normally suited for Marines and better suited for experienced peacekeepers such as the U.N.
Nevertheless, we answered the call; I hope our policymakers have listened.
In a 1988 essay published in my book “Musings of an Absentminded Gadfly,” I wrote, “The state of continual war that Orwell described in ‘1984’ proved to be his most accurate prediction. He referred to it as a tacit agreement between the superpowers … that any actual fighting shall occur only in ‘vague frontiers’ …
“These ‘vague frontiers,’ these third-world countries thus became pawns in the power politics of the superpowers, each claiming to be freeing those countries from the puppet dictatorships of the other, each claiming to be ‘concerned’ about the conditions there and getting involved only in order to give the country back to the people, and to halt the spread of the other’s influence.
“Actually, both superpowers couldn’t care less about those people and their living conditions. For once their confrontation with each other had moved on to another ‘vague frontier’ this one would be left devastated, with many of its people dead or homeless and its economy in shambles.”
Today we see the devastation of Iraq, its infrastructure smashed, its services, food, water, electric, its schools, hospitals, libraries mere skeletons of their past splendor. There are close to a million dead, including 300,000 children, and 5 million Iraqis displaced.
The various factions within Iraq are presently at war with each other, bombing, attacking and counterattacking, with any peace quite out of the question, and with any possibility of all those many millions of displaced Iraqis returning to their former lives and homes not to be.
True, Saddam was a cruel dictator in keeping his countrymen in line, but his nation was at peace. Sunnis and Shiites intermarried, mothers had no fear of sending their little children off to school. Running water and electricity were quite taken for granted. Good colleges, notable libraries and museums were readily available.
There is no comparison between the Iraq before our invasion of that country and the Iraq of today.
Eliot J. Chandler
So Sen. Susan Collins is already planning her re-election campaign (“Sen. Collins ‘certainly’ intends to run again,” March 20).
I note that the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war went unnoticed by Susan Collins and the Portland Press Herald. It is worth recalling Collins’ role as a cheerleader for that disastrous decision to invade Iraq.
In late 2002 Susan Collins stood on the floor of the Senate and decried the “overwhelming” evidence of Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.
Moreover, Collins parroted the Bush propaganda that Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons, and that “Iraq also has attempted to obtain uranium from Africa.”
Of course, none of it was true. Iraq had no WMDs; it had no nuclear program. But Susan Collins never once admitted her mistakes. Instead, after the truth about WMDs was known, Susan Collins voted to prolong the war in 2007, and again in 2008.
Some 4,500 American servicemen and women — including 28 from Maine — were killed in the Iraq war. Today, Susan Collins is celebrated as a “moderate Republican.” There is nothing moderate about supporting a terrible war based on false premises.
Writer continues good work with coverage of new pontiff
A lovely and uplifting article on Pope Francis by North Cairn (“In pope’s humility, Mainers see trait that resonates,” March 15).
I remember her from the Cape Cod Times. Cream always rises to the top.
Walter J. Eno
The Villages, Fla., and Scarborough
Many gripe in South Portland, but few turn out to vote
The results are in, and with a whopping approximately 600 votes to decide an important City Council seat (“South Portland elects a new city councilor,” March 12).
Our councilors make decisions for our city on a monthly basis, and yet people complain all the time about decisions made and the taxes we pay! How can anyone complain and be disgruntled with our council when nobody votes?
I hope that the next time someone is standing at the podium of a City Council meeting complaining or disagreeing with a council panel that they think about whether they voted or not in an election.
I just cannot simply believe that only 600 out of the thousands who could have voted did. Remember, you get what you voted for — or didn’t.