The Iraq war has ended.
Today, the last American soldiers crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait in a remarkably sad and untriumphant end to the nine-year war.
My thoughts are mixed. I salute the American soldiers who fought bravely, even as I condemn the war and the many atrocities it brought. I mourn the tens of thousands dead on both sides. I wish the Iraqis the best of luck in rebuilding their country.
War is never over when it’s over. The effects are felt for generations, long past when the last shot is fired. Americans remain in Iraq, including military personnel to aid with arms sales and training Iraqi forces and 16,000 people involved in the diplomatic efforts (including roughly 7,000 contractors who specialize in security). The mental and physical health consequences of war will affect veterans for a lifetime.
In particular, the mental health of veterans is a serious concern. For the past two years more troops have been lost to suicide than combat; we don’t even know how many veterans have killed themselves, as only statistics about those enrolled in the VA health care system are collected. As in the regular population, the majority of troops killing themselves are men: an indictment of the incredibly poor mental health care we have for men.
The Iraq war also showed the moral bankruptcy of only allowing men to be combat troops. In a war without a front line, female soldiers faced the same risks that their male compatriots did. The toxic sexist combination of chivalry, the idea of the disposable male, and a belief in the incompetence of women needs to end.
Nevertheless, I am happy to see the war in Iraq officially ended. Maybe someday the USA will be not at war with anyone.