I needed to take some to think after reading the article in yesterday's Spokesman Review about Josh Olson, the Spokane native and Iraq War veteran.
Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson has a lot invested in the future of Iraq, and he would like to believe his sacrifice was not in vain.
What he saw in October, when he returned to the place where a rocket-propelled grenade took his leg, gave him reason to believe “it was worth it.”
Nobody would like to believe the sacrifice they or their loved ones made was in vain. I think Sergeant Olson, quite understandably, is addressing this in terms of his sacrifice and experience.
Six years after leaving Iraq, Olson returned as part of a program called Operation Proper Exit, in which wounded soldiers are “allowed to go back and leave under their own power,” he said.
It is hoped that revisiting the site of their trauma will help injured soldiers heal their psychological wounds, often called invisible wounds.
I hope this program works for the vets and I applaud the Army for taking steps like this to help them.
Olson has since visited Iraq two more times as an Operation Proper Exit mentor. He said he was amazed by the changes he saw there.
“It was totally different,” Olson said. Victory Base has once again become Baghdad International Airport and Iraqi security forces have largely replaced U.S. troops. “It made me feel good to see there was progress.”
Had Sgt Olson seen that part of Iraq before we invaded the contrast would have been even greater.
A large section of Tel Afar had been leveled and its residents removed by U.S. forces to prevent it becoming another Fallujah, a former hotbed of Iraqi insurgence.
“It’s still a big ordeal for the Iraqi people,” Olson said, adding that a surge in violence already has begun in advance of upcoming Iraq elections. “People over there are dying to vote where people over here don’t bother.”
We engaged in a preventive war by invading a country that posed no threat to us. In doing so we created 2 million war refugees and displaced 4.7 million of the Iraqi people. We caused hundreds of thousands to die. Of our military forces, over 4,000 died and over 31,000 were wounded. We did depose Saddam Hussein, a ruthless dictator, and yet many other ruthless dictators are left to do as they please.
I do not begrudge Sgt Olson's perspective. He has a very personal stake in this and I would too were I in his place. But we need to look at the big picture before we as a country ask ourselves if it was worth it.