Marshall Frank: Ending Iraq War one thing, keeping peace another

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In 2007, my artist-wife, Suzanne, created an event near Rockledge, in Brevard County, to honor the (then) 3,600 servicemen and women who had already sacrificed their lives toward a noble cause, fighting terrorism and striving to give the people of Iraq a sense of freedom and liberty.

In conjunction with the Unitarian-Universalist church property on U.S. 1, Suzanne’s vision was realized when 3,600 poles were impaled into the grounds facing the busy federal highway, each with banners of red, white and blue, and each with the names of deceased soldiers noted on the sides of the poles.

A memorial ceremony was held, tears flowed, patriotic music was played. Over one month, at least a half million cars passed the site facing the highway, many stopping to take photographs.

In the end, 4,486 American soldiers lost their lives while many thousands more Iraqi soldiers and civilians lost theirs in the noble fight. That, plus multi-thousands that came home with broken minds and bodies.

Did it all go for naught?

As I write, Iraq is falling. Hard-core al-Qaida terrorists and their savage partners from Syria are on the doorstep of Baghdad, already brutal conquerors of several major cities like Tikrit and Mosel. Terrorists are lining up loyal Iraqi soldiers and police officers in ditches, shooting them Nazi style by the hundreds. Bodies are in the streets, beheaded, as a warning to all those that will dare to oppose Islamic radicalism. Many Iraqi soldiers are laying down arms and running for their lives. It’s all but over. They win. Iraqi freedom loses. We lose.

Experts saw it coming. Anyone well-schooled in the mindset of Islamic extremists and their obsession with terror could well educate people including our government leaders, about the hard-core determination of violent Jihadist organizations. When they see a void, they will seize the opportunity. Their focus is unending. Conquest is an absolute purpose. They are not benevolent to the conquered. Neither do they tolerate non-Muslims.

It might have been a shining moment for the president, but we left a void when the United States pulled out all American soldiers. Iraq was unprepared to survive on its own. We should have known that.

In other great wars, after conflicts ceased, we left contingency personnel within the nation as peacekeepers, to preserve what we had sacrificed for. Where would South Korea be today if not for the U.S. position in that nation? This administration chose otherwise despite pleas from top military commanders to keep a force in Iraq, including Gens. Lloyd J. Austin and John M. Keane, who were involved in that fight and recommended stationing 23,000 troops. We are seeing the consequences of that decision.

We were right to end the war. But ending the war is not the same as preserving the peace, which we failed to do. The clarity of hindsight is no consolation.

America is saddened. The broken warriors and families of dead soldiers are saddened. We are saddened for the Iraqi people, to whom we owed more. It could have been prevented.

Gone for naught? Seems so.