Those of us old enough to remember the War in Vietnam remember that among the most enduring effects of that war was the psychological damage done to the soldiers who served. The Vietnam veterans had a much higher drug-addiction and homelessness rates than the general population and for many years after the war the tragic figure of the homeless Vietnam Vet was a reminder of the war that most would have preferred to forget. I have heard very little talk about it but there are a lot of reasons to think that the current War in Iraq is producing far more damaged veterans than did the War in Vietnam. Most soldiers in Vietnam served only one tour. Only those who volunteered to do so went back for more than one tour. In Iraq soldiers are being sent back for two or three tours. Now with the Surge the length of those tours are getting longer and the length of time between tours is getting shorter. At the same time we are reducing the amount and quality of medical and psychological care for our returning veterans. It can be years after a soldier has returned from war before the full effects of the war are obvious.
The United States has damaged itself grievously by attacking and occupying Iraq. We will be suffering the effects of these self-inflicted wounds for a very long time. There is economic damage, damage to our prestige and reputation around the world, damage to our civil liberties and privacy rights, the rule of law, our military preparedness and the damage to the individual soldiers. We will be suffering the effects of this damage for a very long time, indeed.