"Peace on earth, good will toward all men...."
This is the season of peace for all Christians. And for the first time in nine years, Americans are no longer dying in combat in Iraq. The last soldier turned out the lights there Sunday and slipped into Kuwait on his way home for Christmas. All of America is thankful.
The only thing that mars the season is the war in Afghanistan, which the United States is trying to find a "face-saving" means of getting out of as fast as possible. Within two years, hopefully, we'll see the same smiles on the faces of American military families as they see the last of the troops in that troubled war zone come home. Maybe then, we can sit back and breathe, and enjoy a few years of peace for our overworked military.
The costs of the wars will be with us for a long time. Iraq, alone, cost more than $800 billion in direct costs, and an estimated $3 trillion to $4 trillion in VA care for the wounded and veterans' benefits.
We lost 4,487 military members in combat in Iraq, which makes the dollar amounts pale in comparison. Seven of those came from Elmore County.
A total of 31,921 troops were wounded in combat (and just under 9,000 others suffered non-combat injuries).
We lost 2,097 "civilian contractors" (OK, let's call them what they are -- mercenaries) that we'd hired to supplement our forces and provide security for allied and Iraqi dignitaries.
A total of 174 journalists died in the war.
And the Iraqis paid the greatest price of all, with what we believe is the most accurate estimate indicating 150,000 Iraqis died, mainly civilians (many estimates go much, much higher, and only the official U.S. military estimate is lower, at 103,000). No one knows for sure. In a nation of 12 million, that's a lot, however. The same percentage of loss, if applied to the United States, would be about 3.75 million dead.
Did we "win" the war? Hard to say.
We accomplished our goal of getting rid of Saddam, but it would be tough to argue we left a vibrant democracy behind. The Iraqi government is highly corrupt, fractured and divided along religious, ethnic and tribal lines, and barely functioning. Its future is not bright.
Some would argue Iran "won" the war, and there's some sense to that.
In 2000, other than the United States and Saudi Arabia, Iran's biggest headaches and direct enemies were Iraq, with which it had fought a major war from 1980-88, and Afghanistan, whose Taliban government was a constant annoyance in the border areas with Iran. The U.S. cleaned out both of those problems for Iran and left a government in Iraq that already is leaning toward and being influenced by Tehran. Iran came out ahead in Bush's two wars and didn't have to spend a dime to do it.
We'll debate for years whether going to war with Iraq was a good idea. The only thing that isn't up for debate is the skill, courage and determination of our armed forces. They did the job they were asked to do and they deserve high praise for how well they did it.
Like all Americans, we are glad to see them come home.
One war down, one still left to wrap up. But there may be hope that a season of peace is not too far away.