The US is celebrating democratic elections in Iraq this week, bringing back the discussion of the “achievement of victory” in that country and the discussion of the worthiness, or lack thereof, of the war. The elections are pointed to as justification of our actions and the idea that we have been “spreading democracy,” even if that wasn’t the initial reason for the invasion.
None of that matters, because one central fact remains; we committed a war of aggression. We invaded and destroyed a nation that was not a threat to us. What we do after that does not alter that central fact, and in such a war there can be no victory.
If you burn down a house you cannot say that it “turned out well” because you killed some termites; the fact remains that you burned down a house.
We did not do and are not doing any kind of “good thing” in Iraq. We invaded, destroyed and killed for no valid reason. Nothing can change that. We cannot undo that. We can atone for that, but we cannot do so with an army of occupation.
This is not about sack-cloth and ashes; not about guilt. This is about letting go of self-righteousness and self-justification. One need not say that what we did was wrong if it is too hard to do so, but it is unseemly as hell to stand on a pile of rubble waving a flag and proclaim what a favor we have done for those who are buried beneath it.