When I was a child I read "1984" by George Orwell. I thought and prayed that there could never be a place like that in real life. Then I learned about dictators, including Saddam Hussein. I joined the military for an opportunity to stop people like that, and when my unit asked who wanted to go to Iraq for a possible invasion I immediately volunteered. After the fighting died down where we were in the city of An Numiniyah, we got to talk to civilians for the first time. Several wanted to desperately talk to us so we got our interpreter. The first one came and told us how Saddam's men had come to his family's home and when his father refused to do what they said, they lined up his father and his uncle against a wall and made him and his mother watch as they shot them dead. The second person came up and told us how he had been walking home with his new bride in their wedding clothes when Uday Hussein drove by, stopped the car, got out, and raped this man's new wife while he was forced to watch. We asked them why they were telling us this and they told us it was because it was the first time they could tell anyone because "there had been ears and eyes everywhere", which instantly reminded me of Orwell's story. If you look at pictures from the war, you will see the photos and murals of Saddam had their eyes scratched out so that he could no longer watch them. Under Saddam, even your own children would turn you in for complaining about Saddam because if they didn't they could be tortured themselves. These people who talked to us didn't want anything, they just wanted to be able to speak for the first time about this horrible sadness in their life. I knew that very minute that the war was worth it. Someone who was with us commented that if he died in the war, then it was worth it, because dying to save someone from a horror like that was 1,000 times better than dying from old age in a nursing home having done nothing. We all agreed and many of us, myself included, ended up volunteering for several additional tours over the following years to save the Iraqi people from the evil they were living in. Several even paid the ultimate price. Everyone one of us changed, but I have absolutely no regrets and if you could ask even the ones who did not make it through, I'm sure they would say the same thing. Unfortunately our Country has changed too. It saddens me today to see us now unwilling to help people in similar situations in Mali, Syria, and Somalia just because we had a difficult time in Iraq. It is worth risking everything to save someone from that horror. Edmond Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We did something, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was better than doing nothing. Having been in Iraq at the beginning and towards the end, I can say with absolute certainty that Iraq is better off for our intervention. War is horrible, and no war is perfect. Heck we left Joseph Stalin in charge of half of Europe at the end of WWII. But that doesn’t mean that we should just stand by and hide behind useless sanctions while dictators and terrorist brutalize the innocent. The above pictures are from my 3 tours in 2003, 2006, and 2009.
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