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.

Arizona 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 and gas
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.




Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.