On March 17, 2003, President George Bush stated in a televised address why it was the United State’s responsibility to topple Saddam Hussein and protect both American and global citizens from terror:
The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends and it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of Al Qaeda. The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other.
What was patriotic rhetoric then eventually led to the sobering reality we had made a horrendous mistake. After 4,804 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq and 2,340 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, one million U.S. soldiers wounded in both wars, and a potential cost of up to $6 trillion, what was once regarded as the battle against an existential threat is now widely viewed as a colossal mistake. The fight to beat “terror” led to horrendous suffering, and while gains were made, today a new group called ISIS is now entrenched in many regions of Iraq. Furthermore, the burden upon our military has been profound from the effects of two counterinsurgency wars. Studies show that it takes 24-36 months to recover from deployment, but during the Iraq War, soldiers received only one year at home for a 15 month deployment. Overburdening our troops led to dire consequences and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, suicides have become an epidemic among American veterans with 22 soldiers committing suicide every day in the U.S. The multiple tours of duty, record number of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, and other consequences of prolonged wars led to a crisis within the Veterans Administration; veterans wait over 336 days to get their disability benefits.
Needless to say, if we could go back in time, most Americans would never push to invade Iraq. According to the Pew Research Center in 2003, 72% of Americans favored military force in Iraq. This figure resulted in the marginalization of any dissent and even the failure to acknowledge advice from top generals. General Eric Shinseki pushed for greater troop numbers, which might have alleviated the need for an eventual surge, but he was silenced by the Bush administration. Since France was against the war, House Republicans changed French fries to “Freedom Fries.” Anne Coulter attacked 9/11 widows who questioned the government by stating, “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.” Even Vietnam Veteran and triple amputee war hero Senator Max Cleland was attacked politically by Karl Rove and Saxby Chambliss (both of whom never served and pushed vehemently for Iraq) as well as other Republicans who never fought in a war. Today of course, after war hawks won the national debate by accusing critics of being “un-American,” only 38% of Americans view Iraq as the right decision.
Yes, the march to the Iraq War was an era in American history when a triple amputee war hero and the widows of 9/11 victims were targeted by politicians and pundits intent on preventing “un-American” rhetoric, honest dissent, and genuine critique. So what happens when Jews present honest and informed criticism of Israel, from the vantage point of genuine concern for Israel’s long term security? Often times, even mentioning the death toll among Palestinian civilians, or questioning bombing raids on residential areas, or other critique is inevitably met with the phrase, “anti-Israel.” Even as a Jew who loves Israel, if you state the view that the IDF has gone too far in targeting schools or hospitals, you’re met with either suspicion, or contempt in the phrase “anti-Israel.” What about bringing up the incredibly asymmetric ratio of over 2,000 Palestinian deaths, mostly civilians, to fewer than 70 Israeli’s, most of whom are soldiers? Then you might be accused of actually wanting more Israeli deaths, or not caring about the soldiers (I do care about them and their deaths) or having some kind of hidden motive. Then there’s the irrational view of debate that reads if you happen to acknowledge Palestinian suffering, or some of their relevant grievances, then of course you don’t know the entire history of the conflict, or you’ve “chosen” to ignore certain facts that exonerate Jews from any guilt, culpability, or responsibly for the current Gaza war.
That being said, the following issues are presented to you from a Jew who loves Israel, a man who had his Bar-Mitzvah at the Kotel, and an American who has seen with his own eyes what happens when honest and genuine criticism is trampled by false bravado and fear of “terror.” I am pro-Israel and have always been pro-Israel, in fact I used to be extremely conservative (bordering on right wing) pertaining to both Israel and the U.S. Today, I’m more focused on a longer term outlook of peace and security than simply blowing the heck out of Hamas or engaging in decade long counterinsurgency wars. Therefore, there are a number of unsustainable and alarming elements to this current Gaza war that haven’t been addressed by traditionally “pro-Israel” human beings:
1. Civilians are still dying and rockets are still flying and this undermines the moral foundation of the Gaza war. Thus far, the military justification according to the IDF is that civilian deaths are a tragic, but an unfortunately inevitable outcome of war and the quest to prevent rocket attacks. Thus far, over latest Gaza war has resulted in the death of 1,402 confirmed Palestinian civilians, including over 400 children and 237 women not responsible for the actions of suicidal terror groups. These deaths were supposed to have resulted in an end to rocket attacks, but Hamas has launched hundreds of rockets in just the past week. So, does this mean that if Hamas launches all of its estimated 10,000 rockets stockpile within the next couple of months, are we looking at 20,000 civilian deaths? How many civilian deaths will cause even Avigdor Lieberman to say that Israel has entered into a moral conundrum of epic proportions? This is a valid point and someone, anyone, must state a point where a certain civilian death toll is unacceptable. 1,000 children in Gaza? 10,000 confirmed civilians? 100,000? What if Hamas finds a way to launch rockets from now until December?
2. What are the long term economic prospects of sustaining wars like the past invasions of 2002, 2006, 2008, 2012 and today? An NPR article with the headline, “Hamas Conflict Could Have Lingering Impact On Israel’s Economy” states, “Analysts say the war could cost the Israeli economy about $3 billion, if you include things like lost wages.” Is it “anti-Israel” to bring up the economic costs of perpetual war.
3. Hamas is a terror group. It feeds off chaos, recruits from wars it loses, gets funding from wars it loses and gains public opinion from civilian deaths. Furthermore, its charter doesn’t correlate to reality and it has no chance of defeating the most powerful military, Israel, in the Middle East. Will Israel always allow Hamas to dictate the future of peace, knowing very well its intent on sabotaging any chance at long term stability
4. American public opinion is changing and my Jerusalem Post article addresses this fact. This is a serious issue in terms of support for future wars as well as UN Security Council support from the U.S. Furthermore, the U.S. just joined Europe on a potential Gaza resolution.
Finally, it is important to remember that even the biggest and most powerful nation in the world can’t endure never-ending war. It is not “anti-Israel” to present genuine concerns regarding to perpetual war and the futility of prolonging a long term solution. Israel should learn from the mistakes of the most powerful nation in the world as well as what happens when honest critics are silenced by accusations of being “un-American” or “anti-Israel.”