When President Obama announced the end of combat operations in Iraq the general reaction from the public seemed to be muted and weary indifference. A handful of true believers protested the U.S. was “abandoning” Iraq, but that’s a minority view. There’s no questioning by toppling Saddam Hussein from power, America won the war. But whether the following occupation and efforts to democratize Iraq will be as successful remains an open question with no answer.
The anti-war organization Iraq Veterans Against the War points out, the end of combat operations doesn’t mean the end.
* The U.S. occupation of Iraq continues and the reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq can at best be called only a rebranded occupation. While the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will be reduced from a high of 165,000, there will still be 50,000 troops left behind, some 75,000 contractors, five huge “enduring bases” and an Embassy the size of Vatican City.
* The U.S. military’s overthrow of the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein did not lead to a better life for Iraqis—just the opposite. It resulted in the further destruction of basic infrastructure—electricity, water, sewage—that continues to this day. The U.S. dropped more tons of bombs on Iraq than in all of WWII, destroying Iraq’s electrical, water and sewage systems. Iraq’s health care and higher education systems, once the best in the entire region, have been decimated. The U.S. war on Iraq unleashed a wave of violence that has left over one million Iraqis dead and four million displaced, as well as ethnic rivalries that continue to plague the nation. We have seriously wounded millions of Iraqis, creating a lifetime of suffering and economic hardship for them, their communities and the entire nation as it struggles to rebuild.
* Life expectancy for Iraqis fell from 71 years in 1996 to 67 years in 2007 due to the war and destruction of the healthcare system. The U.S. use of weapons such as depleted uranium and white phosphorous has taken a severe toll, with the cancer rate in Fallujah, for example, now worse than that of Hiroshima.
* The Iraq War has left a terrible toll on the U.S. troops. More than one million American service members have deployed in the Iraq War effort. Over 4,400 U.S. troops have been killed and tens of thousands severely injured. More than one in four U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment. PTSD rates in the military have skyrocketed. In 2009, a record number of 245 soldiers committed suicide.
* The war has drained our treasury. As of August 2010, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $750 billion on the Iraq War effort. Counting the cost of lifetime care of wounded vets and the interest payments on the money we borrowed to pay for this war, the real cost will be in the trillions. This misappropriation of funds has contributed to the economic crises we are experiencing, including the lack of funds for our schools, healthcare, infrastructure and investments in clean, green jobs.
* The U.S. officials who got us into this disastrous war on the basis of lies have not been held accountable. Not George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld. No one. Neither have the Bush administration lawyers who authorized torture, including Jay Bybee and John Yoo. The “think tanks,” journalists and pundits who perpetuated the lies have not been fired—most are today cheerleading for the war in Afghanistan.
I’m not trying to refight the war, but nothing about this feels like closure and it damn sure doesn’t feel like “Mission Accomplished.” If this is what victory feels like it doesn’t feel like all that much. I never believed George Bush and Dick Cheney and their gang got us into Iraq for any legitimate reason and seven years after the fact I’m more convinced than ever we went to war based on lies and one man’s ugly ego. Those are extremely poor reasons to come home in a flag-draped casket or with parts of your body left in the sands of Iraq.
I see where some former Bush operatives are miffed President Obama wasn’t effusive enough in his praise of his predecessor. They have GOT to be kidding. The only ones deserving of any thanks are the American soldiers and their families. Nobody else has earned the right to take a victory lap.
Maybe this is as good as it gets but does the end of the U.S. combat operations in Iraq really count as a “win?” All it seems we’ve accomplished after seven years of spilling blood and dropping bombs is there’s one more despot in hell, a lot more dead Iraqis and Americans, an exhausted military coming home to a crippled economy and and a world that doesn’t seem that much safer now than it was seven years ago.
To the bitter end the liars like Evil Dick Cheney refused to entertain even the slightest thought that the war wasn’t a just cause. On the fifth anniversary of the war, ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz caught Cheney in a rare moment of total honesty.
RADDATZ: Let me go back to the Americans. Two-thirds of Americans say it’s not worth fighting, and they’re looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So? (emphasis added)
RADDATZ: So — you don’t care what the American people think?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
Was it all worth it? For what is gained in exchange for what is lost, is any war “worth it?”
Some wars have to be waged. This one never should have been.