Why We Need To Stop Calling The Iraq War ‘A Mistake’

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U.S. Marines from the 3rd Battalion urge infantrymen to rush across the damaged Baghdad Highway Bridge on April 7, 2003. They were moving forward under fire in the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad.
Kuni Takahashi / Boston Herald via AP

In the first two 2016 presidential debates, the Iraq War has been a seemingly hot-button topic with Democratic nominee and former Sen. Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee and business mogul Donald Trump repeatedly referring to it as a mistake that never should have happened.


But here’s the thing: It did happen, and it can’t be undone.

Oct. 16 will mark the 14th anniversary of the passage of H.J.Res.114 - Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, the resolution that authorized the Iraq invasion. And time has made it easy for the American people to forget just how much support was given to the initial cause.

Among the 50 Democratic senators in office in 2002, 29 voted yes to enter Iraq. Clinton was one of them. Overall, 297 congressmen and 77 senators made the decision that sealed the fates of 4,506 fallen American service members.

And although Trump continues to deny any proclamations of support for the war, scores of sources have debunked his claims. At best, they say, “There is no evidence Trump expressed public opposition to the war before the U.S. invaded. Rather, he offered lukewarm support.”

Whether or not Clinton or Trump supported or opposed the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, however, is irrelevant. Neither was the sole orchestrator of the war, and its failure doesn’t belong to them. But if either candidate wishes to be commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, they will be entirely responsible for the service members who fought in Iraq and their families, who frankly deserve better than what we’ve seen thus far.

Hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to the Iraq War. But instead of continuously looking back and suggesting what they could have, would have, or should have done, politicians of the modern era need to start looking forward and addressing what they’re going do to ensure we don’t repeat those mistakes.

The reality is that the Iraq War was a failure — and we can never take it back — but our politicians have a duty to own that, and they need to instead be talking about how to fix the problems it left behind.

The next president will be the steward of the war’s legacy and shape how we treat the veterans who fought in its battles. And as we await the third and final debate of 2016, the national conversation about the Iraq War needs to shift away from calling it a mistake, to what we can do for the men and women who offered their lives to that failing cause, and what we’re going to do differently in Iraq when dealing with the Islamic State in the months and years to come.

The decision we made as a nation in 2002 cost our troops limbs, loved ones, and even many of their lives, and that’s a hell of a lot more to lose than an election.

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.

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Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.

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The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.

Then the rhythmic clapping begins.

This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.

"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.

"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."



Well, I feel better. How about you?

On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.

"We do not know where they are," James Jeffrey told members of Congress of the 100+ escaped detainees. ISIS has about 18,000 "members" left in Iraq and Syria, according to recent Pentagon estimates.

A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."

"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.

President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.

"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."

The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."

Trump said that "small number of U.S. troops" would remain in Syria to protect oilfields.


Kade Kurita (U.S. Army photo(

Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.

"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.

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