Judging by the intensity of the debate that plagued much of the 2004 presidential election, the divisiveness of the Vietnam war has not been resolved. If anything it has festered, inflamed by similar concerns and questions regarding the legality, morality, purpose, and necessity of the war in Iraq. The continued polemic about a war some thirty years gone and the debate regarding the withdrawal or escalation of American troops in Iraq seem to be symptoms of the public’s bewilderment and confusion regarding the realities of war and a consequence of the myth perpetuated by political leaders pursuant to their goals of hegemony, neocolonialism, and empire.
Understanding the truth about war is not just a matter of ensuring historical accuracy. It is crucial to members of the military, veterans, and the families of those injured or killed struggling to heal from their experiences of combat and of loss. Essential to addressing these emergent psychological and emotional needs is an ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, truth from mythology
To preempt those revisionists who, I am sure, are already hard at work distorting reality and propagating an Iraq War mythology, to avoid the misinformation and lies that fuel the endless and futile debate plaguing the Vietnam War, to provide veterans and the families of the injured and killed with the information they deserve and require to heal from the tragedy and devastation of war, I offer the following as a first draft of history, a compendium on the Iraq war (2003-present).
- A preemptive invasion and occupation of a non-threatening sovereign nation based upon faulty intelligence, deception, and lies;
- Misrepresented as a war against terrorism and to liberate and bring democracy to an oppressed people;
- Characterized by minimum disruption to the lives of the majority of Americans, huge corporate profits, and a tax cut for the wealthy;
- Fought by other people’s children who lacked “other priorities” and influential families;
- Initiated by an incompetent, though despotic, chicken hawk Chief Executive and his chicken hawk underlings in violation of international law, numerous treaties and conventions, and the Constitution of the United States; in defiance of the objections and protestations of longtime allies, the United Nations, and a significant proportion of its own citizenry;
- Enabled by a rubber stamp and spineless Congress, some who, like Senator Hilary Clinton, still refuse to acknowledge and rectify their mistakes in judgment;
- Acquiesced to and unchallenged by a compliant mainstream press and media;
- Orchestrated by the Defense Department’s arrogant and headstrong civilian leadership who consistently refused or ignored the advice of military experts;
- Characterized by specious strategy and flawed tactics;
- Fought by an heroic and dedicated military, inadequate in strength of numbers and disgracefully ill-equipped, many of whom were ill-prepared National Guardsmen and Reservists, the rest overtaxed, misled, and deceived into believing their sacrifices to be in behalf of freedom and a necessary response to the heinous attacks of September 11th;
- 12 to 35% of whom will suffer psychological distress related to their service, tens of thousands with catastrophic and long-term injuries, disgracefully ignored and mistreated upon their return by an inadequately funded and incompetently led bureaucracy;
- Thus far costing over 3,200 American lives, an estimated 650,000 Iraqi civilian lives, and $412 billion;
All in the name of a generally apathetic and ill-informed citizenry.
Camillo “Mac” Bica is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. As a veteran recovering from his experiences as a United States Marine Corps Officer during the Vietnam War, he founded, and coordinated for five years, the Veterans Self-Help Initiative, a therapeutic community of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is a long-time activist for peace and justice, a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and a founding member of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace. Articles by Dr. Bica have appeared in The Humanist Magazine, Truthout.com, MRZine, and Foreign Policy in Focus.