We will never forget Vietnam. We will never forget the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. On October 7 next year, Page One of The New York Times (if there still is a Page One) may even memorialize the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. But today, March 20, 2009, there is no space reserved on the front page for the Iraq War, now beginning its sixth year.
Just as Afghanistan's was the less-important war last year, Iraq's is a low priority this year. As Afghanistan and Pakistan have exploded into the public consciousness, violence in Iraq "has flattened at the lowest level since the war began six years ago." Iraq's provincial elections "took place in a remarkably peaceful climate" (although, at least five candidates were assassinated). The status-of-forces agreement signed by the U.S. and Iraqi governments in late 2008 "will reduce boots on the ground and U.S. influence on Iraqi matters." President Obama has vowed to end combat operations by August 2010. Last month, Obama told the world: "Iraq's future is now its own responsibility."
A year ago today, I wrote on this blog: "The question of American responsibility remains fixed in reality; it always will. Let's proceed with that question on our minds." Even I, in a sense, have moved on: to music, to the war in northern Uganda, to the crisis in Zimbabwe. Like so many others, the recession haunts me like a poltergeist. But I still believe that even after all of our troops leave Iraqi soil two years from now (if all goes according to plan), we as Americans must still consider our responsibility to Iraq. We can work to find secure living situations for the millions of Iraqi refugees; or donate to progressive cultural institutions in the country, like the Iraqi National Library and Archive. We can just read a few great books to learn more about the nation that our nation has invaded and occupied, and to understand the war's historical implications.
I understand that this will be a struggle. This past year has brought so much hope, but there have also been so many dark days. Many of us will forever reserve this day for memories and tears, for the contemplation and recognition of innumerable sacrifices and scars. But for many Americans, recent memory has cast a pall over those of the past.