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The Forever War
By Barry Reece
On March 19, 2003, millions of Americans turned on their TV sets and watched an impressive display of male bravado. They witnessed the first few hours of the "shock and awe" bombardment that was designed to give the US-led coalition rapid dominance in the Iraq war. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was breaking news.
On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham and boldly announced the end of combat operations in Iraq. A huge banner behind the President featured a two-word message: Mission Accomplished. The Iraq war would last nearly nine more years and cost 4,474 American lives.
Although US troops exited Iraq on December 18, 2011, our nation continues to spend heavily on "contingency contracting." The United States has overwhelmingly born the burden of Iraq military and reconstruction costs. The defense sector remains a powerful force in politics. Over 1,000 lobbyists represent some 400 corporate clients. Massive waste, fraud, and abuse by Iraq contractors cost our nation millions of dollars each year. Dwight Eisenhower ended his presidential term warning the nation about the increasing power of the military-industrial complex.
The long-term cost of the Iraq war must take into consideration the care of wounded veterans. At least 30,000 troops have required medical care. Many will need lifetime benefits. Health care costs for veterans are projected to increase in the years ahead.
Mark Twain said, "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." The US has no realistic way out of its commitments to Iraq. Despite the sacrifices of our military personnel, we appear to have no option to the forever war.
Barry Reece joined the Iowa National Guard in 1953. Two years later he enlisted in the US Army.
Throughout the past fifteen years he has been an active member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and the Peace Media Group.
Reece is Professor Emeritus at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.