Here we go again. Every year around this time, some of the conservatives who championed the Iraq War put on their hair shirts and launch a pre-emptive mea culpa strike that’s a pity-party in disguise. I came across a particularly poignant example of this from Max Boot, a senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Apparently Boot, according to his recent Washington Post op-ed, has felt "vilified by the far left as a bloodthirsty neocon warmonger for the Original Sin of having supported the invasion of Iraq along with 72 percent of the American public."
Dear Max—and all of the rest of the conservative pundits who so stridently wanted a war they never wanted to fight in themselves —I hope you can find some small comfort in the fact that you were among the majority who supported it. I've heard there’s safety in numbers, though I wouldn't know. I was among the minority who opposed the war, which made things a lot trickier at work and with family and friends. (Full disclosure: I was a charter Board member of Military Families Speak Out, family members of troops who joined forces to actively protest the war.)
You want to talk about being vilified? I've got stories that'll make your ears pucker. I mean, who in their right—or left—mind would oppose a war that one of their immediate family members was fighting? We did. There were just a few hundred of us at first, but as the war dragged on and the casualties climbed, we numbered in the thousands. Even so, there were never nearly enough of us to gain any serious traction in ending a war that shouldn’t have begun. A war that will never end for those of us who've been directly impacted, over there and over here.
March 19th will mark the 15th Anniversary of the "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad. It's the only anniversary I have left. The war came home so hard—carrying severe PTSD, crystal meth, veteran domestic violence, and a semi-automatic weapon—that I had to leave my whole life in order to save it. But I barely have time to miss being married when I have so much to celebrate on the special anniversary coming up. I don't mean to brag, but you would not believe the gifts I've gotten from this war.
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I've got two Army National Guard Freedom Medals and matching Freedom Clocks, dozens of Department of Defense Deployment Preparedness pamphlets, camouflage portfolios of various sizes, tiny folded flags in triangular wooden cases, and a bunch of other hardware and trinkets I collected when I was a military spouse during wartime. I've got boxes of stuff I'll never open again, because the purpose of the cardboard is to contain the past, but sometimes it fails. Then I go to the closet in a room I don't use and push aside the coats I don't wear. I clutch the DCU from his first tour to my chest and lay my head on a Wounded Warrior Project box with the contents listed in bold, black sharpie:
The middle one is the hardest to leave behind. It's hard to create a new life when you did everything you could to protect your old life and keep your one love. Making a new life is all-but-impossible with a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score that cratered in the low 40s out of a possible 100. After years of caring for my combat-disabled vet and enduring the horror show on my homefront, I was diagnosed with persistent depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress.
My household income fell nearly 90 percent after the divorce, and I've been living at or below the poverty line since 2016. I barely scrape by, applying for jobs, maxing out my credit cards, sometimes relying on food stamps and energy assistance. I've been digging myself out of the grave this nation's foreign policy made of my life one goddamn shovel at a time. And I had to construct my own shovel.
But enough about me, Max, I worry about you.
I feel your pain and understand your defensiveness about being so wrong for so long about the Iraq War. Perhaps there is solace to be found in finally getting it right by calling your support an "Original Sin." In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, we all had the chance to choose the fruit from the cherry-picked tree of knowledge of good and evil. You made your choice and you're going to have to live with it. Unfortunately, so do I.