Unfortunately, David Emanuel Hickman wasn't greeted with flowers when he came home.
Or maybe he was:
Hickman, 23, was killed in Baghdad by a roadside bomb that ripped through his armored truck Nov. 14 — eight years, seven months and 25 days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq began.
He was the 4,474th member of the U.S. military to die in the war, according to the Pentagon.
And he may have been the last.
With the final U.S. combat troops crossing out of Iraq into Kuwait, those who held Hickman dear are struggling to come to terms with the particular poignancy of his fate. As the unpopular war that claimed his life quietly rumbles to a close, you can hear within his inner circle echoes of John F. Kerry’s famous 1971 congressional testimony on Vietnam:
How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
It was quite a mistake, too. Not just 4,474 young Americans dead, but nearly 32,000 injured, often horribly - maimed, burned, and disfigured, with brain injuries, amputations, castrations, and other terrible, terrible injuries. (Modern medicine is so good these days that soldiers with truly horrific injuries can still survive the experience.)
Not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead - men, women, and children. And trillions of dollars wasted (direct and indirect costs, including caring for our injured soldiers). And now, every nation in the world has seen the danger of an out-of-control America and how, if Saddam Hussein really had developed nuclear weapons, we would have left him alone, as we do North Korea.
That's certainly a lesson Iran has taken to heart!
(David E. Hickman, 23 - photo by Zack Zornes)
No senior Iraqi government officials even showed up at our exit ceremony. But Iran was cheering wildly. After all, we took out Iran's worst enemy and ended the rule of Sunni Muslims in Iraq, giving control to the majority Shiites - like Iran's leaders. The funny thing is that Saddam Hussein, as a secular Muslim leader, was also the enemy of al-Qaeda.
Yeah, crazy isn't it? We took out the enemy of both of our enemies in the region. And why? Iraq was no threat to us. Iraq had never attacked us and, obviously, would never have dared to do so.
Even clear back in 1990, before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he checked with the American ambassador first, to make sure we'd be OK with that. Imagine his dismay when those assurances turned out to be worthless! That was the first President Bush.
At any rate, we'd still maintained a no-fly zone over Iraq since that war. And the United Nations was continuing to inspect for "weapons of mass destruction." Even if Saddam Hussein still had such things (he didn't), why not let the UN do its job? After all, we were already bogged down in one unnecessary war, one that we might have been able to win, if we hadn't taken our eye off the ball.
The whole thing was just completely insane! But the Bush administration was faith-based. They believed what they wanted to believe, just like Republican leaders now. They sneered at the "elites" who actually knew something about the Middle East. And Iraq's oil wealth was very seductive, especially since our president and vice-president were both former oil executives. Remember how the war was supposed to "pay for itself"?
Did we invade Iraq to steal their oil? I doubt it. I think it was more a matter of right-wing ideologues, chickenhawks almost to a man, believing what they really wanted to believe. They loved war - as long as there was no danger of them or theirs having to fight and die in it - but Afghanistan was just too boring. It was so primitive there were no good targets for our high-tech weapons.
They wanted to find an excuse to invade Iraq. They believed we'd be greeted as liberators, because that's what they wanted to believe. They believed the war would somehow "pay for itself," because that's what they wanted to believe. (Well, they believed that cutting taxes on the rich would pay for itself, too, for the exact same reason. When you're faith-based, you tend to believe whatever you want.)
And now, Republicans are clamoring for war with Iran. Well, that's the other thing about faith-based thinking - you don't learn from your mistakes. Evidence isn't important, only faith. And when you know you're right, when you're absolutely certain that you've got God and the right on your side, then you'll keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
After all, your dogma just can't be wrong, right?