To be clear, whilst men and women much braver than I am got on with the dirty and dangerous business of liberating a country, I surely spent the start of that war doing nothing more shocking or awing than planting daffodils. I am not part of the less than 1 percent of my fellow Americans who were called forth to make real sacrifices for years until their hard surge stabilized that country.
Was the result worth their effort? Sadly, after the sacrifice of much American blood and treasure to remove a cruel and evil despot from power, al-Qaeda is resurgent in Iraq. Suicide bombers still seek to inflict as much collateral damage as possible — almost 60 people were killed on March 19 — and the ultimate fate of this nascent republic is far from certain.
In 2011, the Obama administration abandoned our allies in the region by failing to negotiate a status-of-forces agreement, which would have ensured a longer-term partnership. Sectarian violence has risen at an alarming rate. Iran has moved to fill the influence vacuum and thus spread like a suffocating shadow across Iraq.
However, even though I feel opportunities for a stabilized peace have been squandered to the hazard of any positive historical legacy for our troops, my crystal ball is broken. We are too close in time to the American withdrawal to evaluate the long-term impact of our intervention on behalf of the Iraqi people.
Perhaps the question of worth on this anniversary should be framed and discussed in a different way.
Was going to Iraq the right thing to do?
Rather than rehash all of the tired talking points about WMDs — whether being misled by intelligence is the same as misleading with intelligence — I turn to how a socialist made this case.
Christopher Hitchens was an atheist who aligned much closer to communists than he would ever align ideologically with me. Yet I admired him long before he was man enough to stand his ground when his opinions on Iraq were savaged by the left with the same metaphorical ferocity as the cancer that actually killed him.
You see, after traveling extensively in the Middle East, he believed liberating Iraq was the absolutely right thing to do, and he maintained this position for the rest of his life. Why?
He thought defending human rights required more than lip service. He recognized Saddam Hussein as a brutal, dangerous dictator who had committed genocide amongst other crimes. He understood Iraq was part of a larger struggle with reactionary Islamic fascism intent on establishing a global caliphate that threatened his own way of life, and he made no apologies for believing Western civilization is superior to cultures that undergird despotism.
He also pointed to the 1998 Iraq Liberation Agreement rubberstamped long before 9/11. He understood history, and he did not view the world with political tunnel vision.
Of course, like William Buckley, that lion of the right who has also passed into the ages, Hitch had major issues with the prosecution of the war. But he stood firm on the question of principle I’ve posed here.
The United States did not go to Iraq as an oppressor. Putting aside the political problems that have always threatened the ultimate historical outcome, the military has a right to be proud of what they did there. As Hitch fought rhetorical battles at home, Americans sacrificed abroad for Iraqi interests.
May freedom bloom longer in liberated soil than daffodils bloom in Georgia.
Barbara Donnelly Lane lives in east Cobb and blogs on the MDJonline.com website.