Friday, March 21, 2008

World marks fifth anniversary of Iraq war

With the myriad of deadlines that loomed this past Wednesday, I did not have adequate time to reflect upon the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. President George W. Bush announced the invasion had begun during a televised address on March 19, 2003 as networks around the world broadcast dramatic images of American air strikes across Baghdad.

I was studying in Granada, Spain, at the time and I vividly recall a handful of men huddled around a radio inside a newspaper kiosk around 3:30 a.m. as I was walking home after spending the night out with my visiting friend Becky. She had flown into Madrid the day before, and the added security at the airport was a clear signal to me that something was going to happen in Iraq. And the blaring newspaper headlines the following day confirmed the beginning of the war to which I had concluded the men were listening on the radio.

Former Prime Minister José María Aznar supported the war, but nearly 90 percent of the Spanish public vehemently opposed it. And this opposition certainly shaped my perception of the initial air strikes, Bush's decision to attack Iraq and the subsequent campaign that continues into its sixth year.

War, by its very nature, is a sustained, large scale and violent proposition. The highly politicized debate about whether Bush should have authorized the invasion of Iraq, increased the number of troops on the ground or even exert more pressure on Baghdad to expedite desperately needed political reforms will certainly continue in this election year. But war also, by its very nature, produces a number of unintended consequences.

The United States' reputation around the world remains the most conclusive example of the war's global impact. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in anti-war marches across Spain before the conflict began and in the days after the first missiles fell onto Baghdad because they strongly opposed the Bush administration's plan. These manifestations took place countries around the world, and sent a very powerful and profound message that more or less remains today on this fifth anniversary: war is the worst case scenario whose perpetrators must carry out with the utmost foresight and moral integrity. It arguably remains unlikely those who authorized the war in Iraq used this judgment.

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