It is astounding how much can change in a decade and equally amazing how some things do not change. Ten years ago I was still deep in the closet about my gender identity. Ten years ago I was in college studying political science and international relations. Ten years ago I thought, despite my distrust of the motives of our leaders, that sending our military into Iraq was a good idea.
I was not entirely convinced that Hussein was hiding WMD’s, but I thought it was important because he was flouting international law and the terms of the sanctions against Iraq. I also, just to be clear, thought it was about time we did the same with Israel. When the UN failed to act I thought, at the time, that it was necessary for us to act on our own, or with the help of a few like-minded nations, to enforce this rule of law. I want this to be clear, because my later change of opinion had nothing to do with the lies we were told. I never believed Iraq had any connection to Al Qaeda. To me it was a matter of ridding the world of the anarchy that exists in international relations.
I was wrong. Again, I was not duped. I mean, I was, but that was never the issue, my opinion did not rest on the existence, or lack thereof, of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. I made a bad decision, even if my single opinion had no grand effect on our going to war, I held an opinion that was based on faulty reasoning. If the international community did not want to punish Hussein, the smart thing, the right thing, to do, would have been to wash our hands of it. If he really did have WMD’s let the UN deal with it after the fact if they did not want to before.
That’s my story, and I have to deal with that. The vast majority of everyone else, however, was duped. Our anger over 9/11 was so raw, and the lies the powers that be in this country spun so ready-made to exploit that anger, that we were ready to send our young men into another meat grinder. Ten years, tens of thousands of dead and wounded among our service men and women, and hundreds of thousands if not millions of Iraqis lives mangled later and we still aren’t out of it.
Even when we are finally out of there, we still won’t be. We will be dealing with the financial, cultural, and personal fall out of this war for years to come. Once again, as we saw with Vietnam, we are going to see ourselves wrestle with our perception of us. We are going to see, for at least a generation, those who still believe the lies, because not believing them hurts too much. It means admitting we were wrong and that is so very hard to do.
Well, I was wrong. As such, I owe an apology to every family that lost a child sending them to war, to every mutilated service member, to every Iraqi whose already perilous existence was made even more so. I don’t expect forgiveness. I don’t think any of us who beat the war drum deserve it, but I do hope some manner of inner peace can be found for all those who are still paying for our arrogance ten years later.