When President Bush stood safely on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 2, 2003 and announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” 138 American soldiers had died in the Iraq War. The number has now increased over ten-fold. In March 2005, the 1500th American soldier died in Iraq. The number now exceeds 1,525 and is growing daily. Seriously wounded American military personnel may now exceed 20,000.

One prominent study by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore estimates Iraqi deaths from the war at greater than 100,000. At a minimum, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have died in the war.

Prior to the Iraq War, US leaders made statement after statement expressing certainty that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and even that they knew precisely where they were located. After extensively searching the country following the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, US intelligence has concluded that there are no weapons of mass destruction or programs to create them in Iraq.

There was, therefore, no legal or moral basis for a preventive war as presented by US leaders to the American people and to the United Nations. In fact, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has referred to the war as an illegal act. He stated, “ I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

The Bush administration has now changed its justification for the war as being to bring democracy to Iraq specifically and to the Middle East in general, but as former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has pointed out, “Democracy is not imposed with tanks and missiles, but with respect of other peoples and international law.”

The questions remaining are how can this illegal and immoral war be ended with the fewest further casualties to Iraqis and Americans, and what consequences under law should be applied those leaders who initiated this war under false pretenses and outside the boundaries of international law. Unfortunately, neither of these questions is being discussed or debated in a serious way in the halls of government.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).

Another Soldier by David Krieger, March 2005

The fifteen hundredth American soldier has died In an ancient land.

I don’t know his name, nor can I imagine his face, Surprised or perhaps contorted, as he fell like an anchor Through the sea.

Like all of us, he had dreams.

One is seized by the penetrating beauty of flowers, By their arrangement in a crystal vase, and cannot help Sinking to the sad earth, sobbing and bleeding.

When the flowers, too, have faded and fallen, The empty container will remain solid and solitary, Still reflecting light, but lifeless and achingly alone.