Legacy of a long, sad war

The Iraq war testifies to the valor and sacrifice of the American soldier, just as it holds a mirror to the moral bankruptcy of the political class.

Today, the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, hand wringing is futile. The lessons of war are scribbled by armchair historians, apart from the face of battle.

Here is what we know. We know that 286 servicemen and women from Washington were killed. We know that nearly 4,500 Americans were killed along with 100,000 Iraqis. And we know that the lives of neighbors and friends are embroidered by the legacy of war.

As The Herald’s Christian Zerbel writes, these are people we see at QFC, at Comcast Arena, at soccer games. Faces of people whose ordinariness mask extraordinary suffering or grief or even the joy of a new life.

They include Brett Rickard, a soldier who lost his friend from Silvana, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Hebert. They enlisted together, and after Hebert was killed, Rickard was freighted with survivor’s guilt.

“You feel lucky, but at the same time he was a really good guy and didn’t deserve what happened to him,” Rickard said.

They include Hadil Al-Tamimi and Zahraa Al-Salman, 20-year-old refugees born in the aftermath of the first gulf war. They are American but sometimes don’t feel accepted. In Iraq, they’re perceived as too American. Nowhere, it seems, is home.

They include Shellie Starr, the mother of Jeffrey Starr, a Marine corporal from Snohomish, who was scheduled to enroll at Everett Community College after his third deployment to Iraq. Jeffrey Starr was killed by a sniper on May 30, 2005.

“The politicians start directing the actions from D.C. and these guys are on the front lines,” she told Zerbel. “It’s just an injustice to them.”

The sense of betrayal is palpable. The men and women of the armed forces, their families, their friends, and the American people deserved better.

There were no weapons of mass destruction, and no Iraq link to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The protest slogan that oil was a driver had at least partial merit. “Mission accomplished” became a comedic tagline. National Security Presidential Directive 24, signed by President George W. Bush on Jan. 30, 2003, illustrated zero planning for postwar reconstruction.

Wars, cynics say, are dreamed up by old men (and now women) to send young men (and now women) to fight and die. Yet there are territories, values and people worth sacrificing for. If only lawmakers, agitating for the next big conflict, had the judgment and humility of America’s men and women in uniform.

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