My Elusive Peace

By Callen Harty

As a life-long pacifist I should be happy that the long drawn-out war in Iraq has come to some kind of conclusion. I recall the iconic image of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II. I visualize confetti, parades, or grand treaty signing ceremonies that ended previous wars. But this time there was no celebration, no fireworks. This war that started with such macho posturing and grand pronouncements about shock and awe, and even a “Mission Accomplished” blunder in the middle, ended with a whimper, not a bang.

Still, I should be overjoyed that it is over, shouldn’t I? I should be thrilled that soldiers will be coming home to families and that after nine years we will no longer be there. But for some reason I am filled with sorrow rather than joy. The end of the Iraq War does not bring calm. It brings a sense of uneasiness. The idea of peace is so elusive.

Maybe it is this. Maybe because so many of our soldiers have already come home in caskets that the government was afraid for us to even see, because some of their body parts were dumped in a landfill in Virginia, because their bodies, hearts, and minds will need care for years to come, maybe that is why I am uneasy. Or perhaps it is because of the tens of thousands of civilians whose lives were lost, or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose lives were not lost, but destroyed. Maybe the image of the kiss of death upon innocent children is more powerful than the kiss of a sailor with a woman he didn’t even know. Images of dead or wounded children make the dehumanization required by war so much more difficult.

I feel guilt. Despite protesting both Iraq wars I feel complicit as a citizen in this country. I feel guilty that I didn’t do enough. I am ashamed that my government led us into an illegitimate war and that there was nothing we could do to stop it. As most people know we did not belong there in the first place. All of the excuses generated by the Bush administration to attack the country were proved to be false, and yet it continued, even when we changed Presidents. But there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no support of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Whether the real reason was to control oil, finish what Bush’s father had left undone, or depose Saddam Hussein, the reality is that we should not have been there. According to a December 15 article in the New York Times the other reality is that 4,487 American soldiers were killed in Iraq and more than 32,000 others were wounded. According to the Iraq Body Count Project somewhere between 104,080 and 113,728 civilians died as a result of the Iraq War, including 11 on the day that the war officially ended.

I cannot be happy that the war is over because I cannot be happy that we were ever there in the first place. I cannot feel joy about us being at “peace” when there are still soldiers fighting elsewhere in the world. I cannot find peace in my own soul knowing that so many people needlessly died at the hands of my own government. The end to the war is like an uncomfortably delivered eulogy for a nine-year long funeral. It brings some solace, but it doesn’t end the sorrow, and it doesn’t bring the dead back from the grave.

Editorial addition:
Courtesy of Democracy Now! 

2 thoughts on “My Elusive Peace

  1. I remember when, nine years ago, I stood outside the UW-O union with a few hundred other student, faculty, everyday people who wanted to voice public opposition to the invasion and eventual occupation of Iraq. People yelled at us, people walking by who knew me asked why I was there, what I thought it would accomplish, our standing in the cold. My answer was simple: I didn’t see a way for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. Our invasion was going to be long and costly, and the consequences long-lasting and bad. In the end, we toppled a tyrant, but the people of Iraq are now divided, their country just beginning to pull out of the chaos into an unease of the return of the intensity of the violence that has choked out what once was a gem in the Middle East. Here in the States, the people are bitterly divided as well, and now as a door closes on the longest conflict in this country’s history, their seems to be no answer on how to pull ourselves out of the hole this war has dragged us into, but to once again put the cost of the failings of our leaders onto the shoulders of those who’ve already borne the brunt of the war all along. A long, unsure road lies ahead…

  2. Oh Callen—I just thank goodness it is over. I worry that Newt Gingritch and a ton of politicians already have plans to start more military actions (aka: war) with IRAN. Our species is destined to become extinct, I am disillusioned to say. Personally, I have four children,,,three deeply opposed to war and one who sees a need for war. As a mother, this saddens me also. The age-old questions is: when will it end?

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