March 20, 2003...remember that day? It's the Thursday US troops swooped into the capital of Iraq on a mission best known for its shock and awe...less known for its effectiveness.
The stated objective of that pre-emptive invasion?
Find and destroy weapons of mass destruction.
Find and destroy the bellicose tyrant Sadaam Hussein.
As history painfully reminds us, there were no WMDs in Iraq. And while toppling a statue of Sadaam proved relatively easy (20 days post initial invasion), capturing the evasive and politically fallen Hussein actually took nine months.
Even so, our troops stayed in Iraq in a military posture until August 18, 2010. During that seven and a half years, 751-billion US dollars were spent, 4,424 American troops were killed, and an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi civilians died. In our war.
How is it, then, that this date in our nation's story has become so - apparently - forgettable?
I missed the mention of it in my daily newspaper last weekend. I saw no headline about it on my iGoogle news page. I checked the nation's front pages on Newseum and found nothing. Then I went about my Sunday, remembering only to mention the significance of the date once over dinner with friends.
Ummm. Hmmmm. A glance at our plates and into our drinking glasses. That was it.
In the four days that have followed I have spent a potentially unhealthy amount of time on the Washington Post website Faces of the Fallen. I find it compelling to look at the faces and names and ages and hometowns of those who went into that mess and never came back to their families.
I have also reviewed pictures in my archives to remind me what war actually leaves in its wake...
Because I have never lived in a land where guns and bombs and buried explosive devices and military checkpoints were part of the everyday experience.
How quickly and easily and happily we forget.
In case you missed mention of the anniversary in your newspaper last weekend, here's the latest from Iraq:
Since the last of our combat units pulled out of Baghdad seven months ago, 22 Americans have died. Thirteen of those deaths were "in combat." The rest are labeled "non-combat related," but I don't think it's a stretch to say there's probably not an American soldier in Iraq undergoing some type of advanced medical treatment for a terminal illness.
War is a terminal illness. And we are all dying from it these days.
How, in the name of heaven, could we forget March 20, 2003?
If we don't remember, we just keep repeating*** (see comments).
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