Around this date six years ago I was packing up my apartment in Giessen, Germany as my unit, the 1st Armored Division, "Old Ironsides", prepared for our deployment to Iraq. My fellow lieutenants and I watched with great anxiety as our comrades in the 3rd Infantry Division and others were warming up their engines to follow the expected "Shock and Awe" of prepratory airstrikes into Iraq.
My soldiers watched and cheered as <strong>"Baghdad Bob" provided comedic commentary and repeated denials as our military quickly overwhelmed Saddam's military and were soon toppling a statue of the dictator in the heart of Baghdad.
Soon we would be in Kuwait preparing as the "follow on" force to bring stability to Iraq. I clearly remember packing a suitcase to put in the front of my storage locker with clothes for my college roommate's November wedding. We thought that we had 6 months maximum on the ground because once we found those Weapons of Mass Destruction the military's job would soon be, as Bush mistakenly announced, "Mission Accomplished!"
Unfortunately that suitcase stayed packed, and my soldiers and I spent over 14 months in the streets of Baghdad and Najaf. We went from eating dinner in the homes of everyday Iraqis to fighting Al Sadr's militia in the streets.
Now, six years later, we are celebrating this war's Iron Anniversary, and I can still smell the burning garbage and raw sewage that we drove through, I can still remember the nightly fireworks of tracer rounds we watched from our Baghdad rooftops, and I certainly can name each of my friends who did not return home with me.
I was sick to my stomach this last weekend listening to Dick Cheney tell John King that after 6 years in Iraq "we have accomplished nearly everything we set out to do."
In the words of Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers...Really!
As an officer in Iraq, I knew nothing of this grand scheme that our former Vice President talks about.
What I do remember is that soon after arriving in Baghdad we did not have a plan for our Phase IV Stability Operations. My fellow lieutenants and I were literally making up policy as we went along.
Is that what you mean Mr. Cheney?
I do remember creating training for our new Iraqi security force the night before they arrived as we had no guidance from Cheney's good buddy Don Rumsfeld. It was not long after this we found that when these Iraqi's went home at night they were using those same weapons we gave them against us.
Is that what you were planning to accomplish Mr. Cheney?
So much happened over this six year timeline:
Muqtada Al Sadr
Purple Finger elections...and I could go on and on.
Six years later and the American people have put this war on the back burner as our economy collapses and they worry about losing their homes. Well over 4,000 deaths, more than 30,000 wounded, $700 billion in treasure (billions of that stolen), but finally...maybe...after a Surge and more...we might, just might, have stability.
Is that what you intended Mr. Cheney?
There are some good things that have come from all of this.
There is a new generation of veteran activists and leaders who have taken the flag from those that came before us. Some fight to end the war, some fight for veteran health care and benefits, some fight for their wounded comrades, and some fight for the major changes we need in our national security apparatus to keep us safe.
These are young men and women who have seen the darkest parts of war and have come through to want to fight for a better future, a better America, a better world!
On this anniversary, take a few minutes to check out their websites and sign up for their efforts.
Let us use this Iron Anniversary to come together and work to make sure that Dick Cheney cannot remake history, let us come together to honor our troops who continue to fight, and let us come together to ensure that we do not have to celebrate the anniversary of future wars that did not have to happen.
Check out just a few of our fighting veterans:
Jon Soltz, Executive Director of VoteVets.org
Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Garett Reppenhagen, Veterans Green Jobs Alliance
Brandon Friedman, VetVoice
Nathaniel Fick, Center for A New American Security
Craig Mullaney, author, The Unforgiving Minute