Today is the five year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq which launched the current war. The casualty count of U.S. soldiers nears 4,000 and Iraqi civilian deaths number at least 80,000 (though varying estimates exist). The cost in dollars rises by the minute.
Whether you agree with George W. Bush that these were necessary costs, you’re a Pittsburgher for Peace, or you’d rather follow Heath Ledger’s death, there is probably a subject heading to lead you to materials about the war that support your opinion.
Whatever your position, some of the most undeniably compelling writing and comment about the war comes from soldiers themselves, as evidenced by last weekend’s conference “Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan — Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations,” an event modeled after the controversial 1971 Winter Soldier conference that involved Vietnam veterans. The name “Winter Soldier” is a play on the famous opening to Thomas Paine‘s writing “The American Crisis:”
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”
Excerpts from last weekend’s Winter Soldier conference are available to hear online, and there are numerous books that contain personal narratives from many sides, including heroes, Army interrogators, Iraqis, embedded journalists, a pet dog and less-easy-to-categorize others. A good amount of fiction related to the war also stocks the shelves.
A situation as morally complex and with repercussions as serious as war (especially one with such contentious beginnings and with so many many many many scandals) can leave us confused or angry, but at least there’s some comfort in the fact that we can find resources to educate ourselves about it. And, hopefully, it’s safe to say that, however we think we should get there, we’re all awaiting the day when we can commemorate an anniversary that marks the beginning of peace in Iraq.