It’s hard to come up with words to write after reading about the horror in Baghdad the other day Sunday. Two car bombs exploded in a heavily trafficked area of Baghdad. More than 145 people were killed (some reports say more than 150) and hundreds more were injured, many very seriously. The Los Angeles Times reports that survivors cursed politicians and government for “doing nothing” to stop the violence.
This would be sickening and horrendous even if we, the United States, had nothing to do with this atrocity, but, of course, we did. In the law, there is a concept of “but-for” causation: would an event, an injury, have occurred without a specific person or entity’s action? Our invasion of Iraq is a but-for cause of the killings yesterday. We didn’t detonate the bombs, but we share some responsibility. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, the people killed yesterday might still be alive.
But-for cause is a tricky business, as it is hard to justify legal responsibility under this doctrine. For instance, one could say that two parents’ decision to have a child is a but-for cause of murder if that child ultimately grows up to be a serial killer, but the law would not hold those parents criminally responsible.
I’m not saying that Americans are directly responsible for what happened yesterday on Sunday in Baghdad, but I think it is important to recognize that the explosions are one of many unintended, perhaps unforeseen effects of the decision to invade a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, was not a threat to the United States, and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. I’m not interested in making anyone feel guilty and I’m certainly not suggesting retaliation against the United States or anyone else is justified in any way. What I am saying is that something unspeakable happened in Baghdad yesterdayon Sunday, and it is one of many unspeakable things that has happened in Iraq over the past six and a half years since we invaded. I am outraged that Iraqi civilians have been killed, I am heartbroken that American soldiers (and civilians) and soldiers and civilians from other countries have died. I am despondent over the fact that more will die, in each category.
I hope there is a way forward in Iraq. It sounds like some Iraqis are losing hope: one survivor of the blasts said “We will see more bombings and more violence. Political disputes will increase. Things will never be solved here.”
Before the invasion, people used to casually cite the “Pottery Barn” rule about Iraq, as if trite slogans could solve the chaos and violence unleashed by a misconceived war. I don’t like trivializing horror, but I do agree that we must “own” what is happening in Iraq. Our soldiers must come home, but we must do what we can to heal the broken country and people we will leave behind.