Marking a war

Today, the world welcomes spring ... the season of regeneration and rebirth. In much of North America, it’s a time when the world takes on a different, greener hue.

On a less optimistic note, today also marks the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq.

It was the night of March 19, 2003, that the U.S. and its coalition of allies — under the leadership of the George W. Bush administration — launched bombing strikes on Baghdad as the first move in what was promoted as a pre-emptive war. President Bush told the American public that the purpose of this military action was “to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.”

The justification to take the U.S. to war was based upon two main threats: That Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had, or was developing, weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq was becoming a partner with al-Qaida, the terrorist network that had been behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the end, those threats, the basis for invasion by U.S. forces, were proved not to exist.

The cost of acting on nonexistent threats, now thought by many to have been deliberately manufactured by the administration, was steep. Close to 4,500 Americans serving in the military there lost their lives and more than 33,000 were wounded. Some 100,000 Iraqis were also killed during the war ... most by their own people.

And then there is the financial cost. A study released last week by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University puts the price at more than $2 trillion, with that figure likely to climb toward $6 trillion during the next four decades, including the interest on debts incurred to fund military and civilian forces.

It is true that the war lifted the tyrannical yoke of the Saddam regime off the Iraqi people. But in its place they continue to experience sectarian distrust and violence. An estimated 2 million Iraqis fled the country during the war, and the United Nations. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 2 million Iraqis remain displaced.

Perhaps we can use the memory of the sacrifices made by our young men and women and the continuing financial burden of this unnecessary war as a ever-present reminder to prevent similar wars from taking place.

That would make this anniversary a fitting occasion and an optimistic start to another spring.

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