June 17, 2014
Iraq is descending into civil war. The Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and the Levant are wreaking havoc in the north of Iraq and heading toward Baghdad. Majority Shiites are trying to fight back, but government troops have been seen fleeing their positions. The nation is close to a partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish zones, a predictable result of Bush’s ill-advised, unnecessary war.
The Bush Administration’s reasons for bombing, invading and occupying Iraq were bogus: Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction or chemical or biological weapons. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda and there was no Iraqi operational acts against the United States. And, as Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, speaking on the invasion and war, said, “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 last U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2013. President Barack Obama did not leave a residual force of American troops in Iraq after this withdrawal because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would not sign a Status of Forces Agreement protecting U.S. soldiers. However, numerous contractors and U.S. State Department and other government agency employees remain in the country. The U.S. has well over 5,000 contractors working in Iraq in 2014, working as security guards, translators, and trainers of Iraqi troops on how to use the U.S. weapons systems and equipment sold to the Iraqi government.
The costs of the Iraq war were tremendous in terms of lives lost: 4,489 American lives and at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. The war may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. According to the Study, when security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers are included, the war’s death toll rises to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000.
The Bush administration had claimed at the very outset that the Iraq war would finance itself from Iraqi oil revenues, but the U.S. ended up borrowing about $2 trillion to finance the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, mostly from foreign lenders. According to the Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government 2013 report, this accounted for about 20 percent of the total amount added to the U.S. national debt between 2001 and 2012. In 2013, the cost of the Iraq war was estimated at $6 trillion. However, the costs of the Iraq War are only an estimate as many hidden costs are often not represented in official estimates.
By 2013, U.S. medical and disability claims for veterans after a decade of war totaled $135 billion.
Additionally, the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud.
Considering the staggering costs of the Iraq war, what did the U.S. achieve? Very little it seems. True, the U.S. toppled a dictator – Saddam Hussein – replacing him with a despot, Nouri al-Maliki. Instead of bringing the Shiite Arabs and Sunni Arabs together, al-Maliki sought to marginalize the Sunnis. He has resisted integrating Sunnis into the army. He has accused senior Sunni politicians of being terrorists, hounded them from power and, thus, lost the cooperation of the Sunni community.
Did the U.S. sow the seeds of democracy? True Iraq has had elections, but considering the present chaos in Iraq, there is little evidence that democracy would ever take root without a long-term U.S. presence. But realistically, how long could the U.S. support the tremendous cost of our presence in Iraq – ten, fifteen, twenty years?
The U.S. public will not support sending troops back to Iraq. Thus, the U.S. may be left on the sidelines watching how events play out.
Thanks, Mr. Bush!