Jonathan Alter: Republican Candidates Can’t Run From Iraq War

December 16th, 2011

Bloomberg View
By Jonathan Alter
Dec. 16, 2011

All U.S. ground troops will be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, and soon this sorry conflict will fade quietly into the past, the second-dumbest war in American history. Yet the Iraq War has been missing in action during the Republican presidential campaign.

Like “body counts,” “Khe Sanh” and “My Lai” from Vietnam, “IEDs,” “Fallujah” and “Abu Ghraib” are already meaningless to many younger Americans. Today’s young voters were preteens when the war began in 2003.

The forgetting will be faster than with Vietnam because Iraq never penetrated our consciousness in the same way — unless you were among the 30,000 who came back physically wounded or the more than 100,000 with psychological problems. If you add these 130,000 to the 4,500 dead and include the toll on their families, more than half a million Americans were directly affected by this war.

Our soldiers served with great courage, and they deserve respect (and jobs) when they return. But only now are we learning some of the chilling consequences of what took place. The New York Times revealed this week an internal report that details massacres of civilians in Haditha by U.S. forces. One U.S. officer, Major General Steve Johnson, described the killings as “a cost of doing business.”

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