Against unspeakable odds, Iraqis made history — casting ballots for the first time in half a century. In contrast shortly before, in what was by far the deadliest day for the U.S. military since the end of major combat, 37 soldiers died.
It’s the price of freedom, the President seems to suggest. In a recent press conference Bush described spreading freedom as America’s “vital, long-term objective.” Meanwhile intensified security, strict curfews and border closures are the reality in Iraq.
We are only weeks away from the second anniversary of the day America launched its “shock and awe” campaign, raining bombs and missiles down on Iraq.
Private grief leads to private questions. Public grief leads to political questions.
Here’s the first: Has the U.S.-led invasion really brought freedom to the Iraqi people?
Jubilance in the wake of Iraqi elections can not overshadow escalating violence and surging death counts. As many as 100,000 Iraqi and 1,400 U.S. military lives have been lost. Long-term disability threatens another 10,000 military personnel. Casualties continue to increase.
What have we gained? Do we have a clear strategy to move forward?
The deadliest day for American soldiers in Iraq came on the heels of an announcement that an additional $80 billion would be proposed in the upcoming Federal budget, bringing the financial cost of the war to well over $230 billion to date. Each new projection of this nation’s deficit exceeds previous estimates. In the meantime, nine billion in Iraq Development Funds seems to have vanished.
The U.S. has not fulfilled the fundamental responsibility of an occupying force — delivering food and water to the Iraqi people and ensuring their basic safety.
Today, can we truly say the world is safer from nuclear, biological or chemical attack? Is the U.S. now more secure from terrorist attacks?
When the war was justified to international leaders, we were told that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. When the war was sold to the American public, we were told that Saddam Hussein was behind the attack on the World Trade Center.
We must ask ourselves and our leaders: Could we have pursued the goals of freedom and prosperity for the Iraqi people through peaceful channels with better results?
In a democracy, each of us is responsible for the actions of our government.
In this war, as in most wars, truth too often is a casualty. The currency of democracy is trust between citizens and their leaders. With that trust damaged, not only have innocent lives been lost and precious resources squandered, but democracy itself stands weakened.
Will the American people demand accountability from their elected representatives?
These young men and women will not have died in vain if, as a nation, we have the courage and wisdom to face the truth with our eyes wide open.
Have we fulfilled our responsibility?
Mary Ellen McNish is the general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), best known for humanitarian service during wartime. Organizing massive programs to feed millions of starving children in post-war Germany won AFSC and its European counterpart — the British Friends Service Council — a Noble Peace Prize. Eyes Wide Open AFSC's exhibition commemorating Iraq war casualties is now traveling across the country.