By Quentin Choy
June 30, 2021
Former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has died. He served as the White House chief of staff in the Gerald Ford administration and as secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration. As Bush’s defense secretary, Rumsfeld played a key role in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
With then-secretary of state Colin Powell’s false claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and with millions of Americans not seeing how invading Iraq connected to the September 11th attacks, the 2003 invasion was unpopular and predicated on false pretenses. The lead-up to the 2003 invasion sparked some of the largest antiwar protests around the world.
The lies leading up to and justifying the Iraq War proved to be one of the main causes for widespread distrust of the U.S. government. When inspectors failed to find WMDs, millions of Americans realized the Bush administration lied to them about the war. Colin Powell resigned following Bush’s re-election in 2004, and Donald Rumsfeld resigned in 2006 following the revelation of American troops abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
The Iraq War served as both a key factor of government distrust and as inspiration for some Americans. For political commentator and co-host of Breaking Points, Saagar Enjeti, opposition to the Iraq War served as his political awakening.
Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, said that footage from the Iraq War as she flipped through channels inspired her in creating the world of the Hunger Games saying “I was flipping through images of reality television, there were these young people competing for a million dollars, and I saw images of the Iraq War. Two things began to sort of fuse together in a very unsettling way, and there is really the moment when I got the idea for Katniss’ story.”
The Iraq War and its repercussions in terms of popular culture, political awareness, the rise of the Islamic State, increased Iranian influence in Iraq, and indifference to U.S. presence in the Middle East have all shaped the politics of my generation. The unjustified war’s images are vaguely remembered in our memory. Internet footage of war-torn Iraq being plagued by ISIS following the war’s end marked our teenage years.
While my generation doesn’t remember the September 11th attacks itself, we have lived with the War on Terror’s consequences.
I know classmates who weren’t even one-year-old during the 9/11 attacks who are serving in Afghanistan. The sons of men who fought in Afghanistan in 2001 are fighting in the same country 20 years later. The forever wars in the Middle East have cost thousands of lives and have impacted my generation in a devastating yet unnoticed way.
My generation is preyed on by recruiters to fight for wars that have no clear end goals or ideas of victory. Many people forget that America is still at war in Afghanistan! The lie that drew our nation into Iraq is one of the main reasons I care so much about foreign policy. Having lost in Vietnam, destabilized Iraq, and preparing for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, thousands of young Americans have died in vain fighting in increasingly unjustifiable wars.
The preservation of American lives is why I respect some of the most outspoken critics of war in the U.S. government. People like Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, and Mike Gravel have spent their careers trying to convey the horrors and detriments of war to the American public, and I respect them greatly for leading the charge in that fight.
While I think that Donald Rumsfeld’s legacy was detrimental to the United States and to our safety, I never celebrate the deaths of people, even people I vehemently disagree with. Although Rumsfeld was an architect in America’s most disastrous modern war, I take no celebration in his death because I think it’s wrong to celebrate the death of someone, simply because you disagree with them politically.
However, with the man dead, I hope that the war-hawk ideology that pervades much of our government dies and that politicians became far more reserved and thoughtful when deciding to pursue war. Those in the media and in the higher circles Rumsfeld worked in will revere him as an honorable statesman who pursued American interests abroad. In reality, his policies have destabilized an entire region of the world and have made it a more dangerous place.
It’s sad to think about how the media and those in power honor “statesman” like Rumsfeld versus those who advocate against war such as “Russian-agent, terrorist sympathizer Tulsi Gabbard,” “Crazy Bernie,” and Mike Gravel, the “gadfly” with a “flair for the theatrical.”
It’s easy now as it was when these wars began to label opponents of war as “anti-American.” This makes no sense. What is more American than trying to save our nation’s young from dying in vain in wars that the government cannot justify? Polling from Pew Research Center shows that solid majorities of veterans believe the Iraq War was not worth fighting with 66% saying the war was not worth it.
Think about how broken and rotten a system is that glorifies and exalts misguided warmongers and demonizes and degrades those who advocate against war in an attempt to save American lives.
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