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Today marks an anniversary we deplore. On March 19, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. Five years later, the war goes on, anchoring both countries to a fate that daily appears less and less promising.
Five years: longer than our involvement in the Civil War, in either World War or in the Korean Conflict. Half the life of this publication.
These days our attention seems to be diverted by defaulting mortgages and budget shortfalls. Peace vigils receive little media coverage. Regrettably even this newspaper failed to fully chronicle local antiwar activities over the winter.
The damage from this war is devastating to both countries.
Despite the efforts of our servicemen and -women, chaos has accompanied the destabilization of Iraq. By one estimate, some 650,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. There is violence in the city streets, violence in the countryside. Not only is there loss of life, there is loss of culture, commerce and intellectual capital, as many of the best and brightest leave the country.
At home, the war on terror has diluted freedoms and eroded confidence in the institutions responsible for protecting them.
Joseph Stiglitz’s book “The Three Trillion Dollar War” reminds us of all the dollars that could be spent on strengthening our schools, bolstering our infrastructure and setting this country on a firm path toward long-term stability and restored democracy.
At the earliest, it will be decades before historians can sort out these events and help us understand their meaning and effect.
Meanwhile, the war continues, wearing us down and numbing some into complacency. It is always on, always around us, like a white noise just a bit too loud for a truly comfortable sleep. And behind the white noise the great machines of war and consumerism grind on, beating out a hard rhythm of greed and fear that threaten to destroy this country from within.
“The world is too much with us, late and soon,” wrote William Wordsworth two centuries ago. “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.” These words applied to the poet’s contemporaries. We can take them as a wake-up call to demand an end to the mission in Iraq before leaving becomes our greatest accomplishment.