A look back at the last 20 years of war

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Monday marked the 20-year anniversary of the Invasion on Iraq, kicking off the two-decade war against terrorism.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

March 23, 2023

On more than one occasion, while often said in jest, I have been accused of hating the military or holding some sort of animosity against my fellow veterans.

It’s an accusation that, while hurtful, bears some truth.

It’s been a decade now since I was honorably discharged from the Marines, despite the passage of time I have found myself holding on to a resentment that I cannot let go. Age has only sharpened my now life-long, grudge.

I thought that when Osama Bin Laden was finally killed that it would bring some sort of closure to this empty pit that has become a mainstay in my soul.

It did not.

When we finally pulled out of Afghanistan, I hoped that would soothe the tension.

Instead it just left me feeling like everything was in vain.

And, while I try my hardest to mask the frustrations, I cannot help to channel some of that disgust toward the institutions that facilitated these pointless wars.

Sometimes that disgust boils over to the enablers and proponents of the war.

It was 20 years ago on Monday, when the United States invaded the country of Iraq, kicking off one of the biggest foreign policy disasters in the existence of this nation. This would entangle the U.S. into a messy unnecessary war that, frankly, accomplished nothing.

It’s painful at times, to see how much we forget the country changed after Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

We invaded a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

We traded in our individualism for blind nationalism in an attempt to regain the feeling of security. That over compensation of nationalism has festered into a disease in which the symptoms are peaking.

We allowed the PATRIOT Act to happen.

A nation that once prided itself on civil liberties allowed one of the most intrusive pieces of legislation to pass with barely a whimper.

We got comfortable with torture. Despite the mountain of evidence that clearly states “enhanced interrogation techniques” do not work or the fact that it violates international law, we were willfully ignorant.

We forgot we were a nation of laws and opened up a jail in Cuba that would strip people from their rights. The ACLU reports that Guantanamo Bay is the longest-standing war prison in U.S. history.

Since 2002, 779 Muslim men and boys have been held at Guantánamo, nearly all of them without charge or trial.

As of today, 39 men remain indefinitely detained there. 27 of them have never been charged with any crime. Fourteen of those 27 have been cleared for transfer or release for years.

We allowed multiple institutions, including left-of-center major media outlets to believe this was a justified war and failed to ask the tough questions before it was too late.

We canceled the Dixie Chicks.

We allowed Brent Stephens and David Brooks to still have a platform.

We killed a lot of innocent people.

Brown University estimates the death toll at an estimated 897,000 to 929,000 people including U.S. military members, allied fighters, opposition fighters, civilians, journalists and humanitarian aid workers who were killed as a direct result of war, whether by bombs, bullets or fire.

It does not, the researchers noted, include the many indirect deaths the war on terror has caused by way of disease, displacement and loss of access to food or clean drinking water.

We destabilized an already incredibly destabilized part of the world. The horrors of war will be implanted in the memories of an entire generation of a region that has grown to hate the occupying force that made their lives hell for two decades.

We have romanticized to the point of fetishizing undeserving authoritarian figures under the guise of patriotism.

We almost made Rudy Giuliani president.

We collectively forgot our nation’s founding history and have villainized dissidents, chastising and sometimes allowing worse fates for those that challenge the status quo.

And worst of all, we killed some of my brothers.

Men who were better than you and me are not here today because of this war. They left behind parents, brothers, sisters, wives and children for what they believed was some noble cause to only be grossly misled.

It seems to have become an almost semi-annual occurrence that one of the people I had the honor of serving succumbs to their demons. Our group chat slowly dwindles down, void of the laughter and inside jokes to be replaced with updated funeral arrangements for the latest Marine to enter Vahalla.

The irony is not lost on me, that one of the main slogans after 9/11 was “never forget.”

It would be wise to heed that advice.