On the 15th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, here’s a fact worth contemplating
: In the presidential election of 2016, Donald Trump got the blood sacrifice vote. More specifically, communities that paid a high price for the Iraq War in terms of casualties tended to vote for Trump. In communities where the preference was for letting someone else’s sons and daughters do the fighting, Hillary Clinton prevailed.
Allow me to posit an interpretation of this fact. While many issues divided the electorate in 2016, the Iraq War was prominent among them. To be clear, the division was not between Americans who had supported the war and those who had opposed it. Rather, the crucial division was between those inclined to forget the war and move on and those for whom the war still sticks in their craw.
Hillary Clinton was the preferred candidate of the forget-and-move-on camp. Clinton had voted for the war, then disavowed it, and even today shows little sign of grasping its significance. Yet that camp also included the several Republicans who unsuccessfully competed against Trump for their party’s nomination.
None of these individuals had anything useful to say about the Iraq War. All of them treated it as old news. The Americans who served and sacrificed, along with their families, thought otherwise. For them, the war was not old news. They were not ready to forget or move on.
What they knew was this: The arguments depicting a war of choice as essential — especially about Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction — turned out to be dead wrong. So too did predictions, common back in 2002-2003, of a clean, quick victory resulting in Iraq’s transformation into a liberal democracy.
Worse still, the costs of the Iraq War in terms of lives lost and treasure expended far exceeded what anyone in authority predicted when the war began: thousands of U.S. troops killed, tens of thousands of lives permanently damaged, trillions of dollars spent, all to no avail. Please explain, they asked: For what? Modified from Bacevich
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