Two thousand. Nice round number. Not-so-nice tragic one. The death toll for American military personnel in the Iraq war reached 2,000 this week.
Two thousand men and women died for their country in a war that two-thirds of the American people believe is wrong. They died in a war that we now know was based on manufactured intelligence and falsified claims.
They leave behind at least 3,293 surviving parents, 4,672 grandparents still alive, 5,912 brothers and sisters, 3,772 children and 193 grandchildren. Not to mention an unknown number of aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws along with uncounted fiancés, girlfriends, boyfriends and just plain friends.
A study some years ago said an average young man or woman in this nation has direct contact with, and influence on, at least 1,894 people by the time they turn 21. That means some 3,668,000 who also feel the loss in a more personal way.
We must honor those who died in this war. There is no greater sacrifice that any man or woman can make than laying down their life for their country. But we cannot canonize the dead at the expense of a nation’s soul.
Sadly, the America that these men and women died for is not the America it once was. They died not in defense of their nation or freedom but for a political agenda built on deceit and dishonor. They died because George W. Bush decided to launch a war without just cause, without truth, justice or the American way.
Unfortunately, the failed war in Iraq is not the first time America went into battle under false pretenses. The lessons of Vietnam fell on deaf ears on Pennsylvania Avenue and on Capitol Hill where an unscrupulous President bamboozled a shell-shocked Congress into another war we cannot win fought on principles we cannot justify.
The war in Iraq cannot, and will not, be won. Like Vietnam, we will most likely leave behind a country devastated more by our own military than the enemy we claimed to fight, abandoning the country to postwar ravages that could surpass any horror they faced under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein.
The military men and women who make it home will return to a nation divided by anger over being deceived by its own government – a level of anger not seen since Vietnam. They will come home to a country trying to recover economically from a war it could not afford, fought for reasons that did not exist.
Even worse, they will come home to a country that is less safe than the one they left because the real enemies of this nation had time to regroup while a cowboy President on a mission that not even God could understand diverted time, money and resources to a failed, irrational war in Iraq.
By the time the last American soldier leaves Iraq, the toll of those who didn’t come home alive will be much higher than the milestone of 2,000 reached this week. So will the number of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, relatives, girlfriends, boyfriends who must face the sad, horrible truth that their loved ones died in vain.
(The numbers of surviving relatives in this article were compiled by researching published obituraries along with announcements issued by the American military.)