Many of the new candidates for the Republican nomination for president have been asked the following question: Knowing what we know now, should we have invaded Iraq? In fact, Senator Marco Rubio and former governor Jeb Bush are just two of the latest potential candidates to have blundered the answer about the invasion of Iraq. Ignoring the possibility that this is the wrong question to ask, this question is especially important, for today the city of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, fell to ISIS?militants. The story of a recognizable city succumbing to invaders has been on many of the major news outlets all day.
But even as we shake our heads at the ostensible destruction of a city, we miss the human side of the story; we miss the horrors of war. For many of us — Rubio and Bush included — Ar Ramadi is simply a place to recognize — and then, it is simply a place to forget. But not all forget.
For two young boys, Abdullah and Asif, the violence that an invading force brought with them was far worse than a few serious faces or forgotten memories. I know because I was part of that invasion force. I know because Abdullah and Asif would talk to me about the Iraq question — and their response was always the same:
“No boom with Saddam.”
In 2003, the U.S. military occupied the city of Ramadi on the banks of the Euphrates River. By the time that I began patrolling the streets of Ramadi in early 2004, a child?asking for chocolate was just as commonplace as a roadside bomb. ?Too often, in fact, kids?and IEDs?occupied the same space?at the same time. ?For months, Abdullah and Asif would walk near me on patrols, hold out their hands, and ask for chocolate. One day in late May, 2004, I finally summoned the courage to ask these boys about their view of the war. I never expected to?hear something that would bring me to a realization center to the truth.
“Mister, mister!” Asif ran up to me. “Bush no good!”
?Ain?t no one good, kid,? I said.
“But mister,”?Asif?repeated, “Bush no good. You no Bush.” They stuck out their hands. “Gimme chocolate.”
“Who is better?” I looked back at them. “Bush or Saddam?” Asif, whose name means “forgiveness,” spoke.
?Saddam no good. Bush no good.? Asif laced his hands in front of him and pulled them apart suddenly. “But mister,” he said, “no boom with Saddam.”
In a blog entry for?The Washington Post last year,?Saif Al-Azzawi summed up America’s fatal mistakes in the following words:
“I despised Saddam, but I don’t think an extremist group like the Islamic State would exist under his rule. Even if Saddam had gone crazy and killed a bunch of people, it wouldn’t be anywhere near the number who have died since he was overthrown.”
What Senator Rubio and Governor Bush cannot seem to understand?is that we will remember — not in the patriotic, flag-in-your-face way, but in the deadly, body-parts-strewn-about-like-chicken-feed way. ?In the combination of candy and kids and clicks and booms, we will remember. By God, I will remember the sins of my past, and so should potential candidates for president. It is a realization center to the truth of the invasion of Iraq – one in which all Republicans should realize.
Here’s a hint, Rubio: the answer is, “No.”