15 years in Iraq takes a costly toll

15 years in Iraq takes a costly toll

15 years in Iraq takes a costly toll

By Eric Bradach

Turn on a cable news channel, and you’re likely to see a panel discussion about President Donald Trump rolling back regulations, updates about the Russia investigation or, if you’re in Chicago, the latest shooting.

While those are important stories, reflections on a costly American war seemed to have been absent in headlines last month. March 20 marked the 15-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion in Iraq. 

Think about that: People who were born after the war are going to start learning how to drive a car. Even those who have just become eligible to vote probably can’t remember a time before American and allied forces toppled the Saddam Hussein regime.

There seems to be no sign of the war ending in the near future. The Department of Defense’s budget was recently raised to $700 billion, more than what the Trump administration initially requested. 

It’s a sad state when citizens are demanding Medicare for everyone and free tuition at public colleges and universities and are ignored in favor of more military spending. Along with the Afghanistan War, the longest in the nation’s history, which began in 2001, the Iraq War has triggered an unfortunate steady flow of forgotten human and financial costs.

 $805 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq as of September 2016, according to the Cost of Wars project at Brown University. That doesn’t include the medical and psychological treatment for veterans as well as other future costs, such as the interest taxpayers will need to fork over to pay for the money borrowed to finance the war. There have also been almost 4,500 American soldiers killed in the war, according to the Defense Department, as well as nearly 203,000 Iraqi civilians killed, according to the Iraq Body Count project. 

So why aren’t these numbers provoking more outrage and demands for the war’s end? Because war has been ingrained into the American consciousness.

Although there was heavy backlash against the Republican Party in the 2006 midterm elections because of the war, it hasn’t ended military involvement. The longer U.S. troops stay in Iraq, the more we seem to become content with staying there.

The Iraq War has evolved into an American way of life, and most of us have either been personally affected by the war or know someone who has.

As someone who has a brother currently serving in Iraq, as well as several friends who have also served there, I’ve seen first hand the psychological toll war inflicts on the mind. I’ve seen grown men tear up over what they’ve done and seen in war zones and consoled them in my arms. I’ve seen soldiers come back with severe injuries and become addicted to pain killers. 

Although I’ve witnessed shootings, death and even suicide, nothing can compare to what veterans face in a war zone. 

We’re always told to “support the troops,” but what does that mean?

In the case of the Iraq War, it should mean demanding elected officials justify staying in a war that has lasted for more than 15 years. It’s incumbent upon every citizen to ask what their tax dollars are used for and why it’s justified. The Iraq War has inflicted irreparable physical and psychological damage to veterans, their family and friends, both in this country and abroad.