Markey's Unlearned Lessons of War
When Colin Powell went before the United Nations in 2003 to argue for removing Saddam Hussein from power, I was convinced that his possession of weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to the world. So did most Americans along with most of Congress, which greenlighted using military force to achieve regime change in Iraq.
Three years after Powell’s presentation, I was in Iraq as a U.S. Air Force tech sergeant with the 102nd Fighter Wing out of Otis Air National Guard Base. Deployed in Nasiriyah, south of Baghdad along the Euphrates River, I found a country not welcoming U.S. forces as liberators but resenting us as occupiers.
Of course, we never found WMDs, and the government we installed turned out to be representatives of the almighty dollar rather than the people, selling their loyalty to the highest bidder. I met and made friends with many Iraqis, like the old man whose family had guarded the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham for centuries near the Ziggurat of Ur not far from Nasiriyah. It was heartbreaking to see the suffering of people caught between geopolitical forces both using the welfare of the Iraqi population as a pretext for dominance.
Colin Powell to this day regrets his role as the mouthpiece of cooked intelligence. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who voted to support the invasion while serving in the House, also regrets his role, saying he was misled by the Bush administration. Never mind that he was in the minority in the Massachusetts delegation to cast a yes vote for war in Iraq.
The consequences of the war have been devastating, ranking as the worst foreign policy blunder in U.S. history. Iraqi oil was going to pay for the war. False. We would see a new birth of freedom in the country. False. We would bring stability to the region and solidify alliances. False.
Instead, we have spent trillions of dollars on a misadventure that has cost close to 5,000 U.S. lives, caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, brought civil war and destruction to the Iraqi people and unleashed ISIS and regional chaos.
Sen. Markey has said during the current campaign that he has done all in his power to make up for that vote, but I have seen little evidence of that.
And he seems not to have learned any lessons from his failure to be better informed at the time of the Iraq vote. In 2013, facing his first test in the Senate, he voted “present” on a measure to hold Syria accountable for the use of chemical weapons on his own people. Hardly a profile in courage.
In 2008, I went back to Iraq for a second tour, this time stationed in Baghdad. Growing up in a military family, with both grandfathers having fought in World War II and my dad spending 30 years on active duty in the Air Force, I know the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make. And their families as well.
Nothing reinforces that like participating in ramp ceremonies to send fallen soldiers home, which I did 118 times.
It’s hard to forgive Sen. Markey for his vote to authorize a war that has proved so costly and endless. It would be easier if he really worked as hard as he claims to make up for it. But he hasn’t.
I have supported Senator Markey in the past. This time, this veteran is voting for regime change in the Senate on September 1. I will be casting my ballot for Joe Kennedy III, my congressman for the last eight years, who would never vote “present” but always be present for the citizens of our Commonwealth and our country.
Paul Jacques, who spent 22 years in the National Guard, is a firefighter in Attleboro who is president of Local 848 affiliated with the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.