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A Decade Later, A 360-Degree View of the Iraq War Through Personal Stories

This week marks the 10th anniversary since the U.S. invaded Iraq. Over 4,000 American servicemembers died in that decade of conflict. A recent study said that, in total, the Iraq War may have cost 190,000 lives and $2.2 trillion dollars. Those numbers are difficult to swallow, much less comprehend.

The Truman National Security Project and Center for National Policy wanted to do something to reflect on the Iraq War—and in doing so, bring a personal perspective to it.

The Iraq 10 Year Project is an initiative to record the stories, photos, experiences, and lessons learned of a generation of top-flight national security leaders. It represents the Truman/CNP community—from Veterans who served multiple tours on the battlefield, to political professionals who get strong national security candidates into office, to policy professionals who shape our defense strategy and foreign policy.

In total, more than 90 stories and photos have been gathered into one place. The writers are former battlefield commanders, Congressional candidates, clean energy advocates, foreign aid practitioners, cyber security experts, and more.

Together, they represent a rare 360-degree view of the Iraq War. The stories show us that, even if you did not serve, you could be galvanized and inspired by the war. They give names, faces and feeling to the losses that America (and the world) dealt with. The collection looks forwards—and, sometimes, at a difficult past.

As the Editorial Chief of the Truman Project and Center for National Policy, it was my privilege to have read every single word of the 27,000 that came in.

Sentences like, “I found his leg. I remember it was much heavier than I thought it should have been,” made me gulp.

Others made me realize the wide-ranging impact of the war abroad: “There’s no way to tell a cab driver in five Chinese sentences what it means to be American. I struggled with that. I felt it important to say I disagreed with the decision, not just because it was true, but because it showed that the U.S. tolerates differing views.”

Watching the stories flood my inbox from across the country, I came away with a sense of pride and honor. I also learned more than any book could teach me. Now you can read the same stories, and learn these lessons, too.

As one Army Officer—who today, is a Harvard Kennedy School graduate, an entrepreneur and a non-profit executive—wrote: “Ten years later, our mistaken invasion of Iraq has taught me three things: questioning the value of the fight is never unpatriotic and is crucially necessary; I personally own the actions of my government and I must stay engaged; and investment in education and economies prevents conflict. I hope we’ve learned the same lessons as a country. The cost is far too high to learn them again.”

Take a look at the stories. Whether you served or not, you’ll feel Iraq like never before.

Daniel Gaynor is the Editorial Chief of the Truman National Security Project and Center for National Policy.

Photo credit: Sean Smith, The Guardian

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