The First Casualty of Struggle Is Fact: Iraq 20 Years Later

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4 months previous to the invasion of Iraq, I discovered that the George W. Bush administration was promoting the warfare to the American folks primarily based on a lie.

I used to be attending the first Marine Division birthday ball in Primm, Nevada, the place a former U.S. Central Command commander, not too long ago retired, was our visitor of honor. 

Previous to the festivities at a closed door assembly in a big, empty convention room with the division’s officers, he shocked many people when he mentioned, “Marines, there isn’t any ongoing WMD program in Iraq, however you’re going to warfare anyway.”

He paused, and with an exasperated look on his face, mentioned gravely, “The administration is cooking the books on the intel about WMD in Iraq.” 

This was a frontrunner who had been in command of all U.S. navy actions within the area for greater than three years and had the very best of safety clearances.

He let that thought grasp for a second — that the administration was cooking the books — after which continued, “However in the event you do not undergo the Iraqi Army like a scorching knife by means of butter, I am going to disown each one among you.”

I used to be shocked, however not stunned. 

And so when I discovered myself, 20 years in the past, sitting at a desert base north of Kuwait Metropolis the place the first Marine Division and I Marine Expeditionary Drive staffs had been placing the ultimate touches on the plans for the invasion and coordinating the arrival of dozens of items and tens of 1000’s of Marines, I had combined emotions about our impending future.

Saddam Hussein and his sons had been clearly among the many worst people in historical past. The accounts I learn of their brutality had been among the many most horrifying I’ve ever seen. I felt no regret about what was about to occur to them.

However I had misgivings about the truth that the premise of the warfare was a lie. There was no weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. 

The traditional Greek playwright Aeschylus’ phrases rang in my ears: The reality is the primary casualty of warfare.

Definitely, previous administrations have lied to begin wars. 

“Keep in mind the Maine! To hell with Spain!” ignited the Spanish-American Struggle, with out a shred of proof that the Spanish sank our armored cruiser. 

The Gulf of Tonkin “incident” gave President Lyndon B. Johnson all he wanted to kick off our epic catastrophe in Vietnam.

As I kicked my boots within the Kuwaiti mud, I spotted I used to be getting a lesson in how briskly issues can transfer as soon as an administration greases the skids towards warfare, and I knew on the time this warfare was extra concerning the geopolitics of oil; the management of strategic sources; and, finally, hubris, wealth and energy. 

I knew then {that a} vital variety of younger women and men — American and Iraqi — had been about to die due to greed and due to lies.

My job within the warfare was to assist plan and execute the biggest media embed program in Marine Corps historical past and likewise function a member of our regulation of warfare investigative group — to look into all of the bizarre stuff our items uncovered on the battlefield and keep forward of Iraqi propaganda. 

I spent the morning of March 23, 2003, with my group in search of lacking ITN reporter Terry Lloyd, capturing our approach out of an ambush within the metropolis of Az Zubayr, and medevacing two injured Marines. I spent a minute reflecting on the truth that I had simply been attempting to kill Iraqis who had been attempting to kill me. 

Why had been they capturing at me? They had been there defending their city, their properties, and their households.

To them, we had been invaders, not liberators. I do know we’d have accomplished the identical in the event that they had been armed and shifting by means of our hometowns. 

I did not blame them: Think about an invading Iraqi Army in Texas. In one other place and time, the Iraqis who ambushed us and I might need shared a joke and talked about our households and future desires over a cup of tea.

We did not hate one another. Hell, we did not know one another. 

However we had been attempting to kill one another as a result of we had been each armed and scared, and our governments put us in a harmful state of affairs the place we felt we had been defending ourselves and our mates. 

Whereas our division did its half in toppling Saddam and neutralizing the Iraqi Army in three brief weeks with comparatively minimal lack of life in comparison with earlier wars, the thought that I most probably critically injured and will have killed people I did not know for an invasion that was primarily based on a lie is one thing that I take into consideration every single day. 

On the micro-level, I did what Marines are anticipated to do in fight, however the macro cause I used to be even put in that state of affairs to start with was alarming.

So once I consider the warfare and listen to the names Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle, I consider the 4,419 U.S. service members who died in Iraq and the 31,994 wounded in motion. 

I consider their mother and father and households and mates. 

I consider the extinguished futures, the mangled our bodies and minds, and ruined lives.  

I consider the greater than 208,000 Iraqi civilians killed. 

I consider the properties destroyed and the distress we created. 

I consider the Pandora’s field we opened that led to the insurgency and the creation of ISIS. 

I consider how the disbanding of the Iraqi Army fueled the insurgency and took us from a World Struggle II-style warfare to a Vietnam-style warfare in lower than a yr.

I consider the trillions of {dollars} wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan and different locations, and consider what we might have accomplished to enhance the lives of poor People right here at dwelling with the greater than $8 trillion blown. 

I consider the Iraqi troopers I attempted to kill and those who tried to kill me.

And I consider the ability of lies, particularly when uttered by the wealthy and highly effective.

— Joe Plenzler is a retired fight adorned Marine lieutenant colonel who served as a member of the first Marine Division workers with then-Maj. Gen. Jim Mattis throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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