Happy anniversary, War! I can hardly believe we've been together for five years now . . . that's a fifth of the way to our silver anniversary!
Traditionally, a fifth anniversary is marked with gifts of wood, symbolizing a "strong and lasting marriage." But I knew you wouldn't mind a gift of Kevlar - I looked it up, and apparently it symbolizes "a strong and lasting insurgency." Somehow it just seemed more appropriate.
It's sooo sweet of you to take me out to dinner for our anniversary, War. I know it's not easy getting a reservation here in Baghdad, with so many of the local restaurants destroyed by suicide bombers. But eating in the Green Zone is fine. No, really! Concrete barriers and barbed wire can be extremely romantic.
Anniversaries make me so nostalgic. I have to confess, though, when we first met I wasn't all that sure about you. Remember those sweet nothings you used to whisper in my ear, about WMD and "shock and awe"? Did you think I was impressed by all that macho posturing? I never really fell for it, you know.
I have to say, you didn't make a great impression on my mother either. She always thought you were a bully and a liar. And I don't know if you noticed this, War, but even your friends were pretty appalled by some of your behavior. Right, wild oats. Whatever. Still, I wasn't surprised so few of your so-called friends showed up for the wedding, and fewer still stayed for the dancing. Some "coalition" that turned out to be!
But I don't want to dwell on the bad times, because we did have some good times, didn't we? Remember those peaceful days between "Mission Accomplished" - I think that was May 1, 2003 - and ... and ... well, July 2003 or so, when we could still stroll around Baghdad at dusk, interrupted only by occasional small-arms fire? Those were the days, before the car bombs and IEDs.
We were happy then, weren't we, War?
I really think we were. True, the parades and flowers never did materialize, but I'm not a romantic sap. For me, it was enough that hope was in the air. Children were going to school, political dissidents could speak openly, Iraq was full of a sense of freedom and possibility. So there were no WMD after all - so what? All's fair in love and war, right? - and all's well that ends well!
Except, I guess, that the whole thing hasn't exactly ended well.
Don't you wish we could go back to those halcyon days in the spring and summer of 2003, and have a do-over? This time, we'd do it all so differently, wouldn't we, War? We've learned, we've grown. Oh! If we could only do it all over again, we'd have more troops to start with, and we'd never have had that awful quarrel with nice General Shinseki. We wouldn't disband the Iraqi army, we wouldn't have done that whole de-Baathification thing, we'd have prevented the looting and infrastructure sabotage that helped the insurgency get off the ground. Right?
But you can't go back again, can you? If all that couples counseling has taught me anything, War, it's that we need to take responsibility for what's happened, because when relationships sour, there are always casualties.
In this case, a whole lot of casualties. Nearly 4,000 U.S. troops are dead, and more than 29,000 U.S. troops have been wounded. At least 82,000 Iraqi civilians have died violent deaths since the invasion, and some estimates suggest that as many as 600,000 other Iraqi civilians have died of causes indirectly related to the conflict. They say that nearly 20 percent of Iraqis have had to flee their homes. Oh, I know, War, I know. In five years, every relationship is going to have its ups and downs! And you're right, you've been trying hard lately to turn things around. I do give you credit for that. Your surge brought violence down, even though it seems to be rising again. And you've tried so hard to listen, finally, and understand that an enduring relationship has to be about more than just brute force.
But, War, it's just not enough. It's too little, too late. "Political progress," "reconciliation" - pretty words, but I just can't see it happening.
Anyway, War, I don't like to be a stick in the mud, but it kind of bothers me that these days we're jumping into bed with absolutely everyone: Sunni insurgents, Shiite insurgents, Kurds, God knows who else. It's like being inside Eliot Spitzer's marriage and James McGreevey's marriage and David Paterson's marriage, all at once.
Look, War, I don't quite know how to say this, on our anniversary and everything, but . . .
I want a divorce.
Rosa Brooks is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.
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