When the subject of Iraq comes up, most Americans get a little queasy. First Operation Desert Storm in 1990, then our invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the seemingly never-ending war on terrorism after 9/11. (All U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December 2011.) Our presence in Iraq both times has left several thousand American troops dead (4,500 just from the Iraq War) and more than two hundred thousand veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental disorders. The estimates of the casualties in Iraq are upward of 500,000 Iraqi troops and civilians dead (including deaths associated with the war). And the cost to fund the war, more than $2 trillion (possibly as high as $3 trillion), according to a recent report released by the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. With that kind of collateral damage, it’s hard not to turn a blind eye to what’s going on there today. But if there is any test to our humanity, we simply cannot deny the sickening slaughter of innocent lives by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an offshoot militant group of al-Qaida trying to create an independent state with territory in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
There have been many arguments over what went wrong when we pulled our troops from Iraq, never meaning to leave it so vulnerable to these savages. These arguments are often heated, confusing and pointless. The reality is, there is a humanitarian crisis going on there and we may be just as barbaric if we turn our backs and do nothing.
By the numbers:
13,000: The number of miles the Islamic State has been estimated to control between Iraq and Syria but this has been estimated to be as much as 35,000.
1,922: The death toll for June, the deadliest month thus far, leaving nearly 1,400 civilians dead. Close to 2,600 were reported injured.
5: The number of nations the Islamic State has waged war with.
$2 billion and $3 million: The Islamic State’s estimated assets and daily revenue, respectively
40,000: The number of Iraqi civilians estimated to have been trapped on Mount Sinjar, having fled there to escape the violence; they are considered to be infidels by the Islamic State and are targets for extermination. (It has been reported nearly half of the refugees have been rescued by Syria’s Kurdish rebels.)
The list, which was originally reported by the Huffington Post on Aug. 11, goes on and on. It’s depressing. It’s gripping. It’s insanity.
We understand why so many just want to wash their hands of Iraq, but our presence there this time around isn’t about winning the war on terrorism as it relates to a threat to the U.S., though President Barack Obama did say our involvement would be to protect American personnel in Erbil. But our presence, our intervention, is to protect the civilians of Iraq, to provide supplies and stop the Islamic State. One might ask, why the U.S.? Where are the rest of the world’s nations? And to that we don’t have a response. But despite our ongoing problems here, what kind of nation would we be if we did nothing?
Our biggest concern, however, is not being able to identify clearly and distinctly when enough is enough. At some point, we may have to let this travesty take its course lest we get in over our heads. We urge our leaders and legislators to do what’s best and humane, for everyone — and to have to make that decision, that’s probably one of the hardest places to be.