To honor Lori Piestewa means never repeating Iraq
Our view: After five years and 4,000 U.S. deaths, America's use of pre-emptive, unilateral military force has not upheld the invasion's promises.
Daily Sun Editorial, MARCH 19, 2008
It is heartbreaking, five years later,
to look at the photograph of Lori Piestewa, shown smiling
beside her best Army buddy, Jessica Lynch, and think
of what could have been.
Yes, Lori's two children, Brandon and
Carla, are well-cared-for by their grandparents. As
Betsey Bruner reports today, the Piestewas have made
their own domestic peace with Lori's death in combat,
leaving it to others to sort out the geopolitical mess
in which this country remains entangled.
But, like other children of fallen soldiers,
Brandon and Carla will live lives altered irredeemably
by a war that has yet to make good on most of its promises.
A tyrant was deposed, but at a cost in lives,
treasure and global respect for American values that,
after five years, is hard to reconcile.
We mean no disrespect for the dead,
especially for soldiers who did their duty with no questions
asked. In fact, it is in wars that dissolve into recrimination
and stalemate for which soldiers deserve
the most credit -- it is far easier to salute clear
winners and then go on with our lives.
But the Iraq war isn't going away anytime
soon, and so on each anniversary of the invasion we
are obligated to not only remember the sacrifices of
our troops but the cause for which they died: a stable
and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Sadly, with each passing year, achieving
that goal seems ever more elusive amid mounting evidence
that the policies and strategies implemented by the
Bush administration have had the opposite effect, both
in the region and globally. Pursuing a unilateral, pre-emptive
military solution in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist
attacks might have seemed at the time like the correct
exercise of American power. But in hindsight, it was
based on a complete misreading of not only this
country's post-invasion military capabilities but also
the economic, cultural and religious forces unleashed
by the end of the Cold War.
The result has been a five-year lesson
in the futility of achieving peace by waging war alone.
A recent surge in U.S. troops has reduced the sectarian
violence, in part because Shiite militias have been
lying low. One effect has been to withdraw the conflict
from the public eye, even as U.S. casualties approach
the 4,000 mark.
But most analysts say the U.S. military
cannot support the surge much longer -- it is running
out of troops. Meanwhile, the surge has not been accompanied
by a resolution of the political divide in the Iraqi
government that has paralyzed the country since the
U.S. handed over power nearly three years ago.
Sadly, whether the American public will
run out of patience with U.S. Iraq policy does not appear
to hinge on soldier deaths and civilian body counts
-- the White House treats them as private tragedies
for families like the Piestewas to bear but which never
touch the lives of most Americans. But the economy falls
into recession and the presidential candidates grapple
with questions about budget deficits, foreclosure relief
and easing the credit crunch, the Iraq occupation may
resurface as a compelling economic issue.
That would be ironic, given the need
for a frank re-examination of America's military and
diplomatic strategies caused by the implosion of the
Iraq initiative. But if pocketbook issues like taxes
prices are what it takes to redirect Americans' attention
toward a foreign military strategy that is unsustainable,
so be it. If soldiers like Lori Piestewa aren't afraid
to die for their country, the rest of
us should not be afraid, five years later, to admit
our grievous errors and set a course that does not continue
to repeat them for the sake of a political legacy or
misguided American triumphalism.