Sacrifices should be honored, not second-guessed
More than three years after the total U.S. withdrawal of forces from Iraq, the country has descended into chaos under the assault of ISIS and Republican presidential candidates are falling over themselves to declare the 2003 invasion a mistake they would not repeat knowing what we now do about the erroneous intelligence that convinced President George W. Bush and Congress to authorize it.
As we approach Memorial Day, this Monday morning quarterbacking with the benefit of hindsight dishonors the ultimate sacrifice made by 4,425 American troops and the nearly 32,000 who were wounded in action.
The Republicans who are trying to prove they are not President Bush, including his brother Jeb, are missing the obvious issue as they fall in line with a media narrative that prefers to blame the former president for what has gone wrong in Iraq rather than the current occupant of the Oval Office who has squandered the hard-fought victory in the name of fulfilling a campaign promise.
It is possible to acknowledge that a series of mistakes were made both before and after the invasion of Iraq while at the same time praising our troops who paid the ultimate price and the fortitude of President Bush to not abandon the effort even after the 2006 elections that swept Republicans out of power in Congress.
Republicans were running for the hills then, too, telling Bush he had to get out, but he refused to abandon the troops he’d sent into harm’s way and convinced a Democrat-led Congress to fund the surge that eventually and soundly defeated Al Qaeda in the cities of Anbar Province that are now falling one by one to ISIS.
Even accepting that the decision to invade was wrong, our troops fought bravely and honorably and allowed Bush to hand a relatively stable situation off to Barack Obama when he took office in 2009.
To dwell on the decision to invade Iraq as it now falls apart is to tell our troops they fought and died in vain, when what is truly rendering their sacrifice in vain is the abandonment of the ground they won alongside the Iraqis who joined up with U.S. forces in the “Anbar Awakening.”
More than a year ago, as ISIS was advancing into Iraq from Syria, President Obama laughed them off as a “JV team” that was trying to be Kobe Bryant by “putting on Lakers jerseys.”
That smug self-delusion has been exposed as such, and now hundreds of U.S. troops are back in Iraq although there is very little they can do at this point to stem the ISIS advances while serving under a Commander in Chief who’s shown no aptitude or even interest in developing a coherent military strategy outside of sucking up to the Iranian mullahs to the consternation of our longtime Sunni Arab allies.
The story of Iraq remains unfinished, but the media still refuses to honor our troops’ victory against terrible odds in a terrible situation. To admit our troops achieved a victory in Iraq in 2008 would be to acknowledge that Obama then lost it.
The media have been covering for Obama for more than a year as Iraq has crumbled as they’ve covered for him on so many other issues, but that doesn’t mean Republicans have to go along with it. They could start by honoring our soldiers instead of second-guessing their sacrifices.
Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].