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They Died in Vain

by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance


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When the number of Americans killed in Iraq surpassed the 1,000 mark in September of 2004, President Bush said of the families of the dead during a campaign rally: “My promise to them is that we will complete the mission so that their child or their husband or wife has not died in vain.” Well, the death count of U.S. soldiers has now reached 4,000, and the completion of the mission is nowhere in sight.


This should come as no surprise since Bush’s promise to complete the mission was a lie before he even uttered the words. Back in 2003, in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, the president announced: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.”

And even before we invaded Iraq to begin the war, the Bush administration was awash in lies, as study after study after study has documented.

But not only has Bush’s mission not been completed, it has never been defined. So, just what is this mission that remains to be completed lest the deaths of U.S. soldiers be in vain?

Is Bush’s mission to liberate Iraq from a tyrannical ruler? Saddam Hussein was captured in December of 2003, but we kept on fighting. Saddam Hussein is now dead, but we keep on fighting. There is no denying that Hussein was a tyrannical ruler, but since when is it the business of the United States to rid the world of tyrannical rulers? What would be our attitude if another country said that we needed a regime change? And what about all the other tyrannical rulers in the world? Why do we turn a blind eye to them? And even worse, why does the United States ally with tyrants? We allied with the brutal Stalin during World War II against Hitler, but then we allied with someone that both Bushes considered to be Hitler’s reincarnation – Saddam Hussein – against Iran. Why do some Iraqis say that they prefer living under Saddam’s rule to the U.S. occupation of their country? How ungrateful these Iraqis are for their liberation!

Is Bush’s mission to make Iraq a democracy? What kind of democracy can be made at the point of a gun? And no one who knew anything about the history of the Arab peoples would even think of attempting to impose a democracy on them. And again, since when is it the business of the United States what form of government a country has? There are still a few hereditary monarchies in existence around the world. How undemocratic is that? Should we overthrow them and institute democracies? Don’t we have a moral imperative to invade China and force those commies to become democrats? The United States sure is particular about which countries are due for democratic governments. And not only have we not made Iraq into a democracy, we have unleashed a religious civil war.

Is Bush’s mission to remove a threat to the United States? With no air force or navy, and an economy in ruins after a decade of sanctions, Iraq was never a threat to the United States. Iraq was never even a threat to the United States when we invaded it the first time in 1991. If Iraq’s neighboring countries didn’t think it necessary to send troops to Iraq, then why should we even consider it? Bush has admitted that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Only theocratic warmongers like Mike Huckabee think they were moved to Jordan or Syria. But it doesn’t even matter how many weapons of mass destruction that Iraq had or didn’t have. Many countries have weapons of mass destruction and could potentially target the United States. Why single out Iraq? Doesn’t Russian still have thousands of nuclear devices that are or could be pointed at us? Why don’t we demand that Russia destroy its nuclear facilities and allow UN inspectors to verify their destruction? After being pummeled by the United States military for five years, is there any country in the world that is not a threat to the United States it is Iraq. Yet, we continue making war on Iraq.

Is Bush’s mission to retaliate for the 9/11 attacks? Many Americans still think that the invasion of Iraq was payback for 9/11 even though Bush himself has said that Iraq was not responsible. But what if Iraq was responsible? The number of dead American soldiers has long ago surpassed the number of Americans who died on 9/11. The number of suffering relatives of dead American soldiers has long ago surpassed the number of suffering relatives of Americans who died on 9/11. The number of wounded American soldiers has long ago surpassed the number of Americans who were wounded on 9/11. The sum of money spent on the war has long ago surpassed the money spent to replace airplanes and rebuild buildings destroyed on 9/11. Some payback. But even if it were true that no price would be too high to take vengeance for the 9/11 attacks, taking vengeance on Iraq is no vengeance at all since Iraq was not responsible.

Is Bush’s mission to maintain the free flow of oil? Iraq’s oil reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia. How much oil has been pumped from beneath Iraq’s desert sands recently? The price of a barrel of oil has quadrupled since Bush invaded Iraq. Most countries have no natural oil reserves. When they need oil they buy it from other countries that have it. What have we gotten for decades of intervention in the Middle East? Three dollar a gallon gas, that’s what. Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy oil from oil-producing states instead of trying to control the Middle East? What makes this even worse is that the United States has its own oil reserves – reserves that the government prohibits companies from tapping into. Since when is the United States entitled to another country’s oil at a particular quantity and price?

Now, if Bush’s mission were to destroy civil liberties, shred the Constitution, enrich defense and security contractors, construct permanent bases in Iraq, establish an imperial presidency, confirm him as a war president, build his legacy, expand the national debt, wreck the economy, and further increase the power of the warfare state then I would certainly say that the mission has been completed.

But at what cost?

The terrible cost of Bush’s mission is the lives of 4,000 American soldiers. None of these soldiers had to die. They didn’t die for their country. They didn’t die for our freedoms. They didn’t die for a noble cause. Every one of them died for George W. Bush’s bogus mission. They all died in vain. Their lives were wasted.

Barack Obama and John McCain even admitted this, if only for a brief moment. Obama told an Iowa audience early last year that “we ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized, and should never been waged, and on which we have now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.” He later said his remark was “a slip of the tongue.” McCain soon afterward let it slip that Americans have every right to be frustrated because “we’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives, over there.” He then back-tracked and said that he should have “used the word ‘sacrificed.’”

Four thousand American soldiers have died in vain. Their lives were wasted, just like the over 58,000 American lives that were wasted in Vietnam. How many more American soldiers must die in vain before the American people, and especially their loved ones, realize that their lives were wasted?

But where is the outrage? Every relative of every American soldier killed in this war should be outraged. Every member of the military sent to fight this senseless war should be outraged. Every taxpayer forced to pay for this unnecessary war should be outraged. Every American who was deceived by the architects of this war should be outraged.

True, some are indeed outraged. But what we continue to see too much of is outrage – directed not at the president that manages the war, the Congress that funds the war, or the military that fights the war – but at those “pacifist dogs” and “pinko traitors” who dare to say that every death in Iraq was unnecessary, senseless, and pointless. They all died in vain.

March 25, 2008

Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from Pensacola, FL. His latest book is a new and greatly expanded edition of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.

Copyright © 2008 LewRockwell.com

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