Not optimistic that Iraq has taught a lesson

July 10, 2014

In 2004 I stood with other citizens in an hour-long silent vigil every Sunday along Savannah Road at the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes. For the next four years, every Sunday, we stood there holding signs - some showed how many Americans had been killed to date. Others told the number of Americans who had been wounded. And others told how many Iraqis had been killed. We wanted our leaders to recognize the havoc and death and suffering their actions were causing. We stood silent.

Another group of citizens began standing across the street from us holding signs encouraging the administration in its actions. Not all of them were silent. Some of them jeered, played loud jingoistic music on a boom box, and shouted vulgar abuse at us.

There is back-story that probably few citizens standing on either side of Savannah Road understood. In 1920, a group of European men, with scant interest in the history of the Middle East, took some pencils and rulers and drew an outline with lots of straight lines on a map of former Turkish territory. They drew the lines through the middle of ethnic groups and tribes, splitting some of them apart and throwing together Arab Sunni Muslims, Arab Shiites, Persian Shiites, Kurds, and scattered communities of Turkomans, Jews, Yazidis, Christians, Mandaeans, and Circassians. It was a toxic mix - some of those groups had hated one another for a thousand years. But the European men with their pencils and rulers didn't allow themselves to be distracted by all that. They just drew borderlines and announced that this would be a country called Iraq.

That concocted country miraculously endured for almost 100 years under the thumb of various vassal kings and vicious tyrants. But in 2003 our president, with the support of both parties in Congress, recklessly chose to invade and occupy Iraq. That decision was based on lies. There were no weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's leaders had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The jeerers in Lewes believed those lies. They were motivated by patriotism, but the invasion and occupation that they helped to cheer on has killed more than 4,400 American troops and deprived many thousands of veterans of their limbs, or their eyes, or a chance for a happy life.

Now, in 2014, Iraq is coming apart at the seams. All of our troops' bravery and sacrifice was squandered and wasted. Their suffering was all for nothing. In fact, it was for worse than nothing, because Iraq has been turned into a jihadist wonderland and the world, including the U.S., is a more dangerous place than ever.

A lesson learned? I'm not optimistic.

Peter Schultz
Vietnam veteran

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