The cost of war

War is expensive in more ways than one – economically, emotionally, spiritually, morally – not to mention the cost in human life. As a species we have a history of war that, in reality, defines us. And not necessarily in a good way.

Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m a big fan of debate, especially when I have the chance to play the part of the devil’s advocate, and our country’s current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provide me an excellent opportunity to do so.

These two wars have cost us billions of dollars, they’ve divided our country – perhaps irreparably – and both have only broadened the already vast rift between the Christian and Islamic faiths. Yet the biggest cost in my mind – not discounting the thousands of American soldiers who have lost their lives – the deaths of innocent civilians.

It’s estimated that between 98,000 and 108,000 Iraqi citizens have perished due to violence during the course of the Iraq War, a statistic which I find staggering, and some reports put that number much higher (some estimate that over 500,000 civilians have lost their lives since we invaded). Add to that the civilian death toll in Afghanistan and you’re approaching possible casualties of 120,000 to 150,000 innocent women, children and families. Or perhaps many more (try to picture the entire city of Buffalo wiped out and you’ll have some perspective as to just how many people that is).

As invaders of a sovereign nation, it’s imperative that we, as Americans, take responsibility for those deaths caused by our actions, and yet many people either shrug off these numbers, ignore them completely or rationalize them through the misguided opinion that these wars are in any way just or moral.

Simply put, they’re not.

What I’m really getting at is this – I wish we, as Americans, would take the time once in awhile to make even a half-hearted attempt to look at both sides in these types of situations.

Imagine, if you can, an invading force on American soil, killing our families and friends, our wives, children and neighbors. In that scenario, no matter the reason for such an invasion, I would be the first to take up arms and defend my country. In such a case that would be our right, and our responsibility, as Americans. So why is it that we have such a hard time understanding the Iraqi people’s desire to do that very thing? Remember, we invaded them (illegally I might add), and I have to wonder just what, in our minds, gave us that right.

Now many patriotic souls will argue that we had every right for our invasion of Iraq. They’ll bring up topics such as the deadly weapons of mass destruction (which didn’t exist), 9/11 (which Iraq had nothing to do with) and the fact that the Iraqi people are better off now than they were then. In my mind I have to wonder about that last statement. Are they really?

In all honesty, I simply can’t imagine what life is like over there at this time – for our soldiers and their families here at home, for those who have lost loved ones, for the Iraqi people themselves. I have to wonder if it was all worth it in the long run. And while troops have begun pulling out of Iraq, those soldiers who remain are still in danger every minute of every day. And the war in Afghanistan will only continue to escalate.

War is hell, as they say, and this time around the price may simply be too high.

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