Thursday, December 15, 2011

The War's Ended ~ Where's the Celebration?


When you go to the Washington Post’s online newspaper, you encounter tabs across the top of their home page:  Politics, Sports, Entertainment, National, World.  Click that “World” tab and you get a drop down menu with pages for your purusal including:  Africa, the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and War Zones. 

It clarifies so much, doesn’t it?  The need for a tab, a page, an entire section of the Washington Post called “War Zones.” 

I clicked on the War Zones tab, scanned the Wall Street Journal and Politico, flipped through the San Francisco Chronicle, my local newspapers, even checked Al Jazeera English, to read what I could about the celebration of the end of the war in Iraq.   

After almost 9 years and more than 1 million United States soldiers cycling through combat assignments, President Obama put a period at the end of the run-on sentence of this war.  The path of the Iraq war began with George W. Bush and the search for weapons of mass destruction; zigzagged its way through to the capture of Saddam Hussein; was redefined in terms of security and “peace keeping” during civil insurgencies; incorporated ferreting out al-Qaida; ultimately settling into the nation building we commit to whenever we leave a conquered country, or a quagmire that sucks at our feet. 

To be sure, there’s hope for a better life for the Iraqi people.  The fact that so many Iraqis just risked their lives to vote in free elections that would have been impossible before this war is testimony to a growth of enlightenment.  We deserve credit for that.  The human right and the inborn urge to be free have asserted themselves, thanks to us.  Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki represents a more inclusive government, though some are dubious of his facility as a leader, his long-term intentions, and our continued ability to influence him away from Iran.   

The Iraq war left nearly 4,500 US soldiers dead and more than 100,000 Iraqis killed.  Severe, life-changing injuries to bodies and minds on both sides defy enumeration.  And to be pragmatic, if crass, US taxpayers laid out nearly $1trillion for this war.  That’s 1,000 x $1billion.  We spent $1billion one thousand times on this war.   

But the headlines of the past few days have been striking, whether on the front pages of major print news sources, online publications, or cable and network news teasers:  An alleged pedophile at Penn State waived his right to a preliminary hearing; Federal fines issued to Chuck E Cheese for violations of Child Labor Laws; GOP blah, blah, blah; NTSB recommends a total ban on cell phone use while driving; Time magazine announces “The Protester” as its Person of the Year; oh, and President Obama put an end to the war in Iraq. 

That’s it?  That story blends? 

Where’s the parade?  I want marching bands!  Fireworks!  Times Square!  Ticker tape!  I want to express my joy and relief in the streets with the ecstatic masses.  I want to kiss a soldier for a picture that will live a long, long time.  The war is over!  The war is ended!  Our soldiers are coming home! 

Maybe there will be some of this today, the day of my deadline, before this column reaches your doorstep.  Maybe today, when President Obama speaks to US troops returning home to Ft. Bragg, representing the last few thousand waiting their turn to board transports home, maybe at that moment spontaneous celebrations will explode across the country.  Our joy cannot be contained, can it? 

At the very least, the Washington Post will have to update its menus.  Their webpage manager will have to take Iraq off the War Zones drop down.  Iraq will now be part of the regular Middle East section, reporting recovery, growth, success, achievement.  Right? 

The now-staunched drain on our budget will become be a boon to the economy, right?  One thousand times a billion dollars can now be diverted to health care for low-income children, salaries for teachers and firefighters, scholarships and Pell grants for university students.  Certainly we’ll soon see improved medical services for veterans…right? 

I’ll meet you on Main Street with my party hat and an American flag.  We have a lot to celebrate.