Last week marked the five year anniversary of the war in Iraq.  Our heads of state commemorated the event with familiar political rhetoric; the Republicans vehemently defended the invasion and touted the war as a “major success,” while the Democrats criticized the Administration’s strategy and politely called for an end to the war

The presidential candidates capitalized on the anniversary as a media event; John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all took to the soapbox with finely-tuned messages about plans to win/end/contain the war in Iraq.    

The major newspapers provided elaborate spreads of interactive features and special guest commentaries about U.S. involvement in Iraq.  Some media outlets interpreted the anniversary as an opportunity for self-reflection; many journalists chose to say mea culpa.  Others, like Reuters, highlighted the invaluable service of foreign and local journalists who cover Iraq from the ground. 
Despite the political speeches and predictable media fanfare, the anniversary failed to disrupt the lives of most Americans.  March 18th, 2008 was a day like any other; news about the war and its various benchmarks have become commonplace.  A large percentage of the civilian population not only views such news items as ordinary, but also feels disconnected from those who have sacrificed for the war. 
The question then arises: how does one commemorate the anniversary of war that is at once everywhere and nowhere?  News of the war is inescapable, yet its direct affect on the daily lives of civilians is undetectable. 

One way to observe the anniversary is to acknowledge how the war has changed the day-to-day existence of soldiers and their families.  With the development of Web 2.0 (a term which is younger than the Iraq War), a “living-room war” has evolved into the “YouTube war.” 

With sites like iFilm, LiveLeak, Green Marines, Alive In Baghdad and YouTube, the American public can gain access to the unadulterated, daily existence of those who know the war firsthand:

In addition to the sights and sounds of combat, the stories of warfare prove just as moving: ###

Adam’s First Death – Back From Iraq

The following home video of a family reunion demonstrates the emotional divide between military families and ordinary citizens:

Lastly, a letter from the frontlines:

An opera is a fitting setting in which to read a soldier’s final letter to his wife and children.   
On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, it’s appropriate to honor those who have served by putting political opinions aside and listening to soldiers’ stories from their unique perspective, in their own words.

Iraqi Flag Photo Credit: Michael Totten

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