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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reflections on an unsaved life and the last day of the Iraq War

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

The last day of the war in Iraq has finally arrived, although the Nation will be stuck to the Iraqi tar baby for generations to come. The US was the first of the “Coalition forces” to invade Iraq, and the last to leave, its partners’ token contributions long removed.

The longest war in its history has ended, and yet the Nation sleepwalks through the day. Victory dances are scarce. Only those who are coming home, and those that won’t have to return to Iraq, dance the victory dance. The public shops.

The last U.S. soldier risks loss of life and limb, risks the Signature Injury of the war and of the era, Traumatic Brain Injury, risks PTSD and a lifetime of pain and loss. This alone ought to be cause for celebration, but the Nation looks for bargains in this the holiday season. We are a nation of shoppers.

Those that still have jobs look forward to holiday vacations and glad tidings, as a new tide of veterans reverse-deploy their way to unemployment, homelessness and failing medical support systems. Hoo-Rah!

The death and destruction is winding down in the region, a problem for the locals now, as it has always been, from the beginnings of civilization, as it will always be….

Iraq and Iran are, after all, neither much more than a hundred years old, political lines drawn on a map by the British and French, carving up the Ottoman Empire.

The infinitely more important lines are those that have existed since the great schism in Islam, separating the Sunni and the Shiite, and those before that, as the story of Jerusalem makes clear.

Those differences will last forever, while no permanent political boundary has ever existed anywhere, not in the history of the world.

And then there are the numbers.

Co-Presidents Bush and Cheney, having persuaded themselves that Iraq had something to do with the September 11 attacks and was developing stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction despite all the evidence to the contrary, and rendered impotent in their failure to find Osama bin Laden, spent more than a trillion dollars and the lives of about 5,000 US soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, not counting the wounded, just to kill Saddam Hussein.

Osama bin Laden, and his Saudi and Yemeni highjack teams, killed about 3,000 people on September 11, 2003.

That same year, more than 16,000 Americans died from homicides committed by other Americans.

During the span of the war in Iraq, 2003-2010, 129,964 Americans died from homicides committed by other Americans, proving that you don’t need WMDs or airplanes to kill a lot of Americans. They do it themselves every day, and they are getting even better armed.

It is important to note that this was a war fought in Iraq, not against Iraq. The Nation ostensibly went to war in Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein, as friends of the Iraqi people. The GOP Tea Party complains that the Iraqis are ungrateful….

I remember this period of my life with great pain, with acute sorrow. Dreading the start of the invasion came early in the war for me.

From the beginning, it was clear that the lying bunglers in the Bush/Cheney White House had little understanding of the region, and were lashing out half-blind, setting things in motion that they could not hope to control.

From the beginning, it was clear that Rumsfeld was trying to fight the war on the cheap, with too few troops and resources, and would have to rely on the states to supply National Guard soldiers in great numbers to save his arrogant ass, and both of my sons were thus at risk.

My sons’ Utah National Guard unit had been among the first put on alert for deployment to Iraq, in early 2003, but that is only part of the story.

They had disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction in 1996, had become estranged under tremendous pressure from their mother and her Mormon friends, and I was just starting to connect with my son Aaron, through a cell phone I had smuggled to him, as the Shock and Awe campaign unfolded.

In August of 2003, I recovered Aaron from Utah, and only then realized that he was desperately ill and in need of medical attention. I learned that he had suffered terribly during his years of isolation among the Mormons, had been assaulted by his 2nd stepdad, his mother’s fourth husband, and had been force-fed Mormon dogma to the point that he had begun cutting his arms with a knife when he was just fifteen years old.

I spent hours every day, caring for my son. He was too sick to drive anywhere on his own, through August, September, October, into November.

And every day I felt the pain of separation from my still-abducted and estranged other three children, still in Utah, fully enveloped by Mormons and Mormonism.

Then came the day his deployment orders arrived. His unit was going to Iraq, and he was determined to join it, to serve alongside his brother, Tyler.

I pleaded with him not to go, but there was no stopping him.

On Thanksgiving Day, I watched him pack. We ate our last meal together. The next day he was gone, in no condition to drive, and with a suspended license.

When he left our home here in Portland on his drive to Utah, reporting as ordered, his access to medical care ended, although we did not know it at the time.

He picked up tickets for speeding and driving with a suspended license. I paid those fines, as he was too ill to work, and I supported him until the end of his life.

The Army sent Tyler to Iraq for two tours, but provided no medical care for his brother.

The Army held Aaron back for medical review, and then discharged him honorably, but without providing treatment.

And he died there in Utah, sick and alone, when he could have been here, home with me, and receiving the care he so desperately needed, that he had needed for years.

We are also casualties of the Iraq war, my sons and I, although we will never be counted as such.

We are among the 1% who paid a price, the invisible ones.

And so the day comes to an end….

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