The war in Iraq, or rather, the major combat operations in Iraq, those pesky little "objectives" that George W. Bush claimed ended in May of 2003 (he was never very good at numbers), ended in earnest this evening, as fourteen-thousand combat troops rolled out of Iraq and across the border into Kuwait.
As news came in across Twitter (not even an idea on a napkin at the time of the initial Baghdad invasion) and on major news networks, I felt eerily similar to how I felt on September 11th, 2001:
At a loss, staring at a pile of rubble, with the death toll being announced over and over again.
We lost 4,415 service men and women during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The war in Iraq will be spun and molded in the coming days and weeks to have been a war fought by brave men and women who sacrificed their lives, limbs and mental capacity because they--stirred by 9/11, lured by college tuition or inspired by Vietnam movies--volunteered to do so. We will be reminded, as justification for future warfare, that America's security is comprised of a volunteer military force, brave fighters who signed up to protect our freedom and--this being the most important thing --defend America.
On the morning of 9/11, I recall hearing that the towers fell as I drove to work and feeling an indescribable loss that I now share with every person alive during that time. Today, as the last Stryker vehicle crossed into Kuwait, I felt the same sense of loss. But our nation, perhaps still reeling from its own PTSD caused by the last seven and a half years of warring with an invisible enemy, showed no signs of mourning. Traffic slowed during rush hour. Happy hours came and went. The radio played Lady Gaga instead of Lee Greenwood.
Justifiably at a standstill when our towers fell and our then-President declared his most tragic of all decisions that we would "make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them," the world did not stop turning or even slow to a crawl today as the United States voluntarily exited a war it had, waving hundreds of flags and buying yellow magnetic ribbons, voluntarily entered.
If there is anything left to be learned from Iraq, it is that we were all unwitting volunteers in our country's greatest lie. We were all drafted to care about a country we had no business being in, and are all war criminals in the too-often fatal indignities its citizens suffered because of our country's actions. We have sacrificed our money, our diplomatic standing and worst of all, our military judgment, to rush headlong into a knife fight with tankers.
And as for our volunteer military? No one in the United States military service ever volunteered to defend a lie.
"Each of you is here to help defend our country from the very dangerous threats that we face. You weren't drafted. You weren't conscripted. You stepped forward. You volunteered." Donald Rumsfeld, Aviano AFB, February 2003
"We know where [WMD's] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." Donald Rumsfeld, ABC News, March 2003
“Is Iraq going to be a long war?” Mr. Rumsfeld answered, “No, I don’t believe it is.”
Donald Rumsfeld, Washington Post, February 2006