Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, a 24-year-old army veteran who has served in Afghanistan, Japan, Germany and the Philippines, recently refused to be deployed to Iraq, citing his belief that the conflict is an “illegal war.” Because of his youthful age and four-year tenure in the U.S. military, Chiroux’s decision may reflect the opinion of the average UC Irvine student, if instead of being sent to college, he or she was sent to fight for our nation.
Admittedly, Chiroux is different from the bulk of UCI’s student body in many ways. Living in the Orange County bubble, with expensive automobiles, Fashion Island retreats and plush office buildings, it may be difficult to relate to Chiroux, whose family was nearly destitute as they struggled to survive in the American South. Still, what cannot be denied is that while military volunteer numbers are dwindling, the U.S. Army wants to increase the size of the forces occupying Iraq. As such, the United States will have to expand its recruiting efforts, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the Orange County bubble.
Whether you have signed up for the military, are currently enlisted, are open to the idea or are violently opposed to serving, what remains clear is that if you are tapped to serve in Iraq, just don’t go. First, the conflict has proven to be aimless, as little has gone smoothly since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Second, because so many individuals are already unwilling to serve in Iraq, the U.S. Army is ready to send just about anyone, whether they are prepared or not. Lastly, make no mistake that Iraq is a war zone. Despite the invasion being invalid, this illegal war can have the same effect on its soldiers as any credible conflict.
The war in Iraq followed Hussein’s refusal to give U.N. weapons inspectors full access to government facilities. While citing this as reason enough to invade the country remains debatable, what must be noted is that much of the initial conflict is irrelevant to the current war in Iraq. Since Hussein was removed from office in 2003 and executed in 2006, no weapons of mass destruction have been found on the level that U.S. intelligence had estimated. The conflict continues aimlessly, with vague notions of “freeing” Iraqis while not giving them the freedom to operate a true democracy.
Despite George W. Bush’s declaration that America’s mission in Iraq was accomplished on May 1, 2003, the U.S. Army apparently never got the message, judging by its recruitment and deployment methods. Although only 140 American soldiers died before “mission accomplished,” over 4,000 have died since that time. It is only logical that there is a shortage of volunteers willing to die for a conflict that has been technically over for the last five years, at least according to the U.S. president. As such, the U.S. military has had to resort to desperate measures, including recruiting students straight out of high school, re-deploying previously honorably discharged soldiers like Chiroux and offering conduct waivers that allow ex-felons to serve in high-ranking military positions. There is a chance that not only are the soldiers who are sent to Iraq under-prepared or past their prime, but that once these soldiers get to the battlefield, who knows who will be serving alongside them?
For all its shortcomings, the war in Iraq is just as successful at creating pain and suffering as any other war. Aside from the 4,000 soldiers who have died, an additional 30,000 have been wounded, while others still have suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. Although the plight of those currently serving in Iraq should be kept in mind, the best way to help them out is not to increase enlistment, but to find a practical solution for bringing them home.
Over the years, the objectives of the war in Iraq have changed from toppling a dictator to finding harmful weapons to flat-out nation-building. As such, the Bush administration or its successor may attempt to shift the aim of the conflict again, to something that is anybody’s guess. Still, know that the war in Iraq is an illegal and aimless conflict and that soldiers such as Chiroux should be applauded for their refusal to support it.
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Filed Under: Opinion