Iraq at 15 Years: A Warning of Lieutenant General Hal Moore


Friends of Padre Steve’s World

My computer at work has been in the process of being remotely updated to Windows 10 for the past five days and even though I have been busy at work I have had some time to reflect on the beginning of the Iraq War on March 19th 2003. Like many in the military I was for it before I was against it. Yes you can call me a flip-flopper.

Even though I knew better at the time I had no problem being confrontational towards the courageous men and women, those in the minority who asked the hard questions about the Bush Administration’s justification for the war; which would soon be exposed as lies coated in distortions and wrapped in propaganda.

I knew people in the military who were against it and saw nothing good that would come from it. They were voices of reason, but despite my doubts I convinced myself that the President and the administration had to be right. Despite the evidence to the contrary I wanted to believe that the leaders of my country were right, even as the casualties rose and the failure of the war became apparent. It took going to war myself in 2007 in Al Anbar Province with the men who were serving as advisers to the Iraqi Army, Border troops, and police forces to make me realize how wrong that I was.

Despite the evil of Saddam Hussein and his thugs most Iraqis who I came to know were good people who had seen the United States destroy their country, set the stage for a brutal civil war and insurgency and were working with us because the alternative was worse and many still believed that United States would honor its word to help lift them out of what we had brought about. I left Iraq in 2008 hoping that the worst was over for my Iraqi friends but it wasn’t and I realized the truth of T. E. Lawrence’s words:

“We were fond together because of the sweep of open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked. The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us. We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to remake in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep, and was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.”

It has been ten years since I left Iraq and I still feel an emptiness and try not to think about the war too much. I lost friends and comrades, and know too many others who wounded in body, broken in mind, and shattered in spirit have either ended their lives or struggled terribly as I have since leaving Iraq.

Lieutenant General (US Army Retired) Hal Moore, who commanded a battalion at the Battle of the Ia Drang, the first major battle between the U.S. Army and North Vietnamese regulars in 1965, and was immortalized in the film We Were Soldiers and book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young told West Point Cadets in 2005:

The war in Iraq, I said, is not worth the life of even one American soldier. As for Secretary Rumsfeld, I told them, I never thought I would live long enough to see someone chosen to preside over the Pentagon who made Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara look good by comparison. The cadets sat in stunned silence; their professors were astonished. Some of these cadets would be leading young soldiers in combat in a matter of a few months. They deserved a straight answer.

The expensive lessons learned in Vietnam have been forgotten and a new generation of young American soldiers and Marines are paying the price today, following the orders of civilian political leaders as they are sworn to do. The soldiers and those who lead them will never fail to do their duty. They never have in our history. This is their burden. But there is another duty, another burden, that rests squarely on the shoulders of the American people. They should, by their vote, always choose a commander in chief who is wise, well read in history, thoughtful, and slow-exceedingly slow-to draw the sword and send young men and women out to fight and die for their country. We should not choose for so powerful an office someone who merely looks good on a television screen, speaks and thinks in sixty-second sound bites, and is adept at raising money for a campaign.

If we can’t get that part right then there will never be an end to the insanity that is war and the unending suffering that follows in war’s wake-and we must get it right if we are to survive and prosper as free Americans in this land a million Americans gave their lives to protect and defend.”

Needless to say, Moore, a West Point graduate was never asked back. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 94, just a few days before his 95th birthday.

I think that all of us could stand to heed General Moore’s words but I don’t think that we will.  In 2016 we elected a man as President who can’t even think and speak in sixty-second sound bites and who threatens nuclear war abroad. We elected a man that openly praises authoritarian dictators; and attempts like Saddam Hussein to silence, intimidate, and destroy opponents at home while enriching himself and his family from the spoils of his political victory.

Sadly Americans are still dying in Iraq as Iraqis, divided by their tribes or variation of Islam, and played as pawns between the United States, Iran, and Turkey, suffer and struggle to rebuild their shattered country.

I will finish for now and I think unless something really more out of the ordinary than usual happens in regards to the travails of Trump, I will do some more writing and reflecting about my time in Iraq and my post war experiences and reflections.

Until tomorrow,


Padre Steve+




Filed under Foreign Policy, History, iraq, Military, national security, Political Commentary

5 responses to “Iraq at 15 Years: A Warning of Lieutenant General Hal Moore

  1. Adam

    When will it end Dear God. Killings and more killings.

  2. Dr Dave McKay

    Thank you Steve for saying what needs to be said, not just from your own perspective, well referenced at all times. I would respond to all your posts , but it is enough for me to read them and help others see what is important. I may have said before, I love United States of America, and most of your nations people. I have family in the States. I am a New Zealander. I wrote the definitive book on USS Enterprise CVN-65, having been honored to spend several weeks aboard and live with Big E Shipmates. I am as proud of your Navy as Americans are. I am however disgusted by the behavior of your present President. I am disappointed and disillusioned by the lack of questioning by a number of your countrymen and women, and the tacit agreement and support they have given this dangerous and foolish man. He is not of the caliber to run any country. When Rex Tillerson was fired I was not surprised, not even by the means that Trump enacted the dismissal, however, my sadness was significant. From this perspective I saw Tillerson as one of the most considered and thoughtful on the cabinet. Now that Trump has disposed him, he is free to collect another yes man who will support his autocracy (read dictatorship). I have never seen a whitehouse / congress that is in such dissarray. It is, to be straight to the point, a damn circus, and USA is better than this. I work alongside people from all over the world and many US citizens, and we are all unanimous in our fear, distrust and disappointment. USA is no longer a player in the world from our perspective that your leadership is not respect-worthy and therefore not respected at present. It is not seen as stable and no longer trustworthy. This is a shame as your government represents many great Americans, and you have been badly let down. I am hopeful that positive change may happen, but somewhat despondent that ill educated, extreme partisan and closed minded people have the reins and are using fear mongering and bully tactics such as insisting patriotism is only available in the way that they have presented it. The true patriots will serve the country by questioning this nonsense until people again see what is real. I blame the democrats for this shimozzle as well. They need to step up and do a proper honest job. Well Steve, I could go on, but brother I am touched by your words, words that confront and reveal the gray area where truth resides, a place sadly many will not consider nor enter.
    Peace out
    Dr Dave McKay

    • padresteve

      Thank you Dave, we have to stand for what is right no matter what this President and his cabal of immoral sycophants do. They are dangerous and while the Republicans enable him the Democrats for the most part have done far too little despite being the minority party. Thank you for your kind words. Peace, Steve+

  3. Politicians running wars…just NEVER works. Effing unbelievable what we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan…what do we have to show for our efforts? I know what the answer is. Tom and MAGIC

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