Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent the last 15 years as a features editor at Canarsie Courier. Aside from reporting, he did public relations work for brands including Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes occasional columns on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

These lyrics to “War is Over” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono are particularly timely this Christmas.

So this is Christmas and what have you done,
Another year over, a new one just begun.
A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.
War is over if you want it, war is over now.

There were no celebrations. No parades. No dancing in the streets. No soldiers kissing girls in Times Square. The war in Iraq, AKA Operation Iraqi Freedom, sort of turned out like the month of March — it came in like a lion (Shock and Awe) and went out like a lamb.

While we should be thankful the Iraqi conflict is officially over, we must not forget the thousands of American combat and support troops still engaged in a war in Afghanistan — that one’s for Enduring Freedom — where they face death and danger every day. For them, there’s nothing to cheer. And though the Iraq War may officially be over, American soldiers, diplomats and other civilians remain to face the wrath of certain Iraqi factions.

Even so, the key difference between the end of this war and when the last soldiers returned from Vietnam in 1975 is that these veterans won’t be subjected to the undue scorn or derision heaped on their predecessors unjustly blamed for any connection to the innocent slaughter of unarmed civilians.

The one thing common to the end of this war, which gradually lost national support as it dragged on with no clear resolution, is that a grateful nation reveres those who served, remembers those whose lives were sacrificed and, hopefully, won’t soon forget those who came home injured in mind and body. Consequently, it is imperative that our government guarantees Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, especially those who experienced serious physical and psychological damage, are provided adequate assistance to adjust to postwar life. And, even in this struggling economy, it is crucial that businesses try and accommodate able-bodied veterans so they can make a suitable transition to civilian life.

One question that has been debated for eight years, and one that helps cue a divisive grass-roots controversy, but lately has been on the minds of media pundits, newsmakers, opinion writers and the man on the street is, “Was the war in Iraq worth it?”

How can you measure the significance of something that was an unequivocal blunder from the onset? After all, it started on the whim, or maybe a plan, of a few misguided government officials — with President George W. Bush at the top of that list. In the end, the cost was 4,500 lives of American men and women and an estimated $1 trillion spent on something initiated with faulty, uncorroborated information.

Unlike his predecessor, President Obama did not herald the mission as a victory when the war officially ended on December 15. This president knows we’re not that much closer to the end of the War on Terror than we were on May 1, 2005. On that day, Bush, in a badly chosen attempt to take the edge off a nation still saddened by the horror of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, prematurely declared the end of the war as he stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier in front of a huge banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished.”

Putting aside the cost in lives and whether or not freedom and democracy really had much to do with our motives, the money spent on the Iraq War helped devastate our national economy. It also stained America’s image abroad with long-time allies, as well as Arab nations with which we hoped to craft constructive affiliations and business ties. The war also distracted us from vital international and domestic issues, but diverted scads of money to destroy then rebuild Iraq’s roads, bridges and buildings, while this nation’s infrastructure was drastically underfunded or neglected and left to deteriorate.

Despite continuing violence, Iraq is safer today and better off without Saddam Hussein, but it still must reconcile its civil war and create a stable government if the Iraqi people can hope to live in a peaceful, secure and tolerant society.

Only time will tell if we learned any lesson from the botched misadventure where we stayed the course much too long. But, as we welcome home the troops, one in particular stands out: from now on America should develop a viable, rational approach before committing troops to fight and die in a clash that justifies sacrifice in the defense of this country.

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  • http://twitter.com/nicktherat Nick the Rat

    we still have a huge embassy in iraq and still have thousands of americans there, and will be there forever (just like we have soldiers in germany and japan) . the iraq war is just another item on a huge list of why america sucks. 

    our leaders make me sick

  • Munir

    The Iraq war is officially over. Never again should the American people allow our government to deceive us by committing our country to a war under false pretenses. Iraq was never a threat to the US or to the Middle East. The devastating results of this war include the deaths of 4500 Americans, and at least tens of thousands of Iraqis, overwhelmingly civilians. In addition to the tremendous economic losses and disruption of Iraqi society, the number of Americans and Iraqis physically and emotionally disabled cannot be counted. It is estimated that this war cost the US taxpayers a trillion dollars. Isn’t it ironic that the US politicians who caused this tragedy have not been held accountable for their actions? This war has ended with a lose-lose conclusion to all parties concerned. There are no winners.
     
    The neocons and warmongers are attempting to find some redeeming value in this war with false claims that it helped create the Arab Spring and spread democracy in the Middle East. There is not a shred of evidence to support such claims. We should stay vigilant and not let them involve us in such wars again. 
     

    • J.P. Zenger

      Pres. Obama stopped his Attorney General from investigating Bush as a War Criminal. He said that we must look out the windshield and the rear view mirror. Does this hold for all the other criminals and murderers in our country, they should all be set free.

  • J.P. Zenger

    It is time for former pres. bush to be prosecuted as a War Criminal.