Ending the War in Iraq?

Dear Readers,
Kmareka welcomes our new Mideast expert, Kevin De Jesus,PhD, who sends us this post on the consequences of war and the long road for survivors, both in the US and Iraq. Thank you, Kevin, for looking beyond our war-weariness to confront the reality our veterans and their families face…

Ending the War in Iraq?

Not so simple, as war’s legacies endure through the family.

Media outlets across the globe have reported that President Obama has declared that “America’s war in Iraq will be over by the end of the year”. This is not the first time the Iraq war has been declared “over”. Recall President Bush announced on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that the war in Iraq had ended, in fact some nine years before this war will foreclose by virtue of a full troop withdrawal.

I believe we must rebuff the notion that the Iraq War will in fact be so neatly over – it is indeed this type of mythic conception of war that leads us to be deluded into thinking war, partly due to our ability to fight at such a high-tech capacity from great distances, is so precisely so simple. I argue, rather, that many battles will continue between here and the Euphrates, battles which will be waged through the legacies of war’s reverberations through families, across their everyday social, emotional and relational lives. Can we argue therefore that an ethically-committed politics, particularly among those of us who opposed the war in Iraq here in the US and across the globe, ought to drive a sense of urgency to remain focused on easing and supporting the lives of those whose life will be continually encroached by the long-reach of the hauntings of political violence that share a different sense of time than President Obama, or for that matter of Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki.

Let us consider some of the evidence for this argument I make. MIT’s Dr. John Tirman’s informative blog, “Iraq: the Human Cost” reveals an array of threats to human well-being across the duration of the war, and in particular, as in the case of many of the displaced, the long-term impoverishment, dislocation and erosion of rights and protections, that are long-standing in effect. Tirman notes that other threats, lethal and devastating in terms of human impact includes the exposure of children to landmines and cluster bombs used in Iraq by both US and non-US military and para-military actors. Fortunately, Iraq has joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2009 , however, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor (2011), Iraq remains “massively contaminated” with explosive remnants of war, due to the succession of violent conflicts which have embroiled Iraq for decades, including the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion. {For the full report, link here. }

What role will the US and other coalition partners play in clearing these munitions, particularly that according to UNICEF and UNDP decades are likely needed to clean up the terrain of Iraq .

How will families of cluster munition injuries secure the resources needed to rebuild their family life, meet the cost of disability, and heal social-psychological wounds, as a part of the Obama-Maliki plan to end the Iraq war? Is, in fact, such a matter of the human legacy of war also legitimate part of ending war?

Central to the family is the matter of the disappeared. According to a recent NPR report (July 20, 2011), Iraqi family members of disappeared persons gather each Friday to alert the world to their plight. It is claimed by NPR that since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, “tens of thousands” of new missing/disappeared persons have been reported, with a particular increase in 2006 and 2007. How will Obama and Maliki deal with the matter of secret prisons, enforced disappearances, and the families of the disappeared who live the war in a particular way, day after day?

For American families who have endured the Iraq War vicariously, through their deployed loved one, the risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be higher than in veterans themselves, one clinician has found. The military family advocacy organization “The Sanctuary for Veterans and Families” details an array of threats to the well-being of veterans from Iraq and their families, including homelessness, supports for women veterans, resources for the children of veterans and the development of community-based psychological supports for veterans and their families. Top on the agenda of The Sanctuary for Veterans and Families is legislative advocacy.

Perhaps an ethically-committed politics can begin with taking the lead from The Sanctuary. Recognizing that for so many the war will not be over by the close of the new year, can those of us who were so ardently opposed to the Iraq War, continue to actively engage to ensure that the resources vitally needed to continue to ameliorate the effects of the war on families from both the Iraq and the US, be delivered?

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3 responses

  1. All this is terribly premature and overly simplistic. We have heard that “the war is over,” many times before, with contrary facts on the ground. Moving 45,000 soldiers and another 5-10,000 civilian support staff, and all the “stuff” of war is no simple task. The supposed reason for the sudden withdrawal is the refusal of the Iraqis legislature to grant U.S. troops immunity. Despite the warnings of the experienced military folks that a precipitous witdrawal could well be dangerous to the troops on the ground as well as the future of the fragile Iraqis government, Mr. Obama, chose to cave and cease negotiations. The limitations of Mr. Obama in strategic, economic and so many other areas is glaring and speaks to the need for mature and experienced folks in the Oval Office. However, it is just as likely that we will need to go back into Iraq, as the Iranians seek to fill the void left by the Chamberlain-like sacrifice of a nation for political purposes. In the end, neither military/strategic needs or politics are served, and of course it is our soldiers and airmen who pay the price.

    The factoring in of the Iranian presence is another issue, and it seems very likely that

  2. So typical, Obama is unfairly attacked from both the left right and right, the former expect him to miraculously deliver what is impossible, and the latter want him to fail so badly they would extend the stupid war in Iraq and fail to note the Dec 2011 withdrawal date was actually negotiated by W Bush.

    Considering the difficult hand he was given, and the constant unrelenting criticism from all sides, and unprecedented Republican obstructionism from a GOP that would rather have roads crumble then allow an infrastructrue jobs bill go forward, I think he has been a remarkably capable President, even able to maintain civil discourse in face of unreasoning opposition. Go Obama!

  3. Nonsense; appeasement is appeasement, wheter right or left appeasement. Mr. Obama has again failed to head the best advice available from the commanders on the ground. The demis of the Hussein gangsters was welcome on rational grounds, but likely less that appropriate historic or geopolitics, creating as it did an era of chaos and a vacum that will and is being filled by the Iranian hegemony seekers. The Bush errors of aggressive response are followed by the untutored errors of Mr. Obama. This least equipped President has indeed threatened the sacrifice of 4500 American dead, 32,000 wounded, and $800 billion expended. Instead we have Obama inspired aggressions in Uganda, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Pakistan. Mr. Obama will not “take on” the Syrians, the real bad actors and their puppet master, the Iranians, but he will risk Americans in Uganda. This is not a Left/Right set of issues. It is in reality a failed presidency seeking some glimmer of something.

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