Iraq – Was it worth it?

 US troops are heading home.  Families all over America are rejoicing in the pending arrival of their loved ones.  America is proud of  all the soldiers that fought a war that has been criticized from its inception.  Of course, now the analysis of the war can begin.  It will be a decade or two before any final judgements can be made.  But, below are the thoughts of a contributor to this blog.  Welcome home, heroes!! 

Yesterday the last American combat brigade stationed in Iraq crossed over the border into Kuwait. Officially, our war in Iraq is over, although some 50,000 soldiers will remain to train and otherwise assist the Iraqis as they continue their struggle to rebuild their country.

We went to war in Iraq based on a belief that Saddam Hussein was either holding or preparing weapons of mass destruction, generally described as chemical with more extreme elements asserting that he had or was close to having nuclear capabilities.  None of this turned out to be true.  Some proponents also tried to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and Al Qaeda, which also was untrue.  In fact, it was well-known even at that time that Saddam Hussein had great enmity for Osama Bin Laden, given Saddam’s secular perspective and view that Al Qaeda, if allowed to establish a material presence in Iraq, would be a threat to his ability to retain power.

So what were the human costs?  Stars and Stripes reports that 4,414 of our soldiers made the greatest sacrifice, another 1,135 incurred the loss of one or more limbs, another 31,897 suffered wounds of a general nature, and thousands more have come home with some degree of post-traumatic stress syndrome.  On the Iraqi side more than 113,000 civilians (not soldiers) have been killed and countless others have been injured.  The number of Iraqis that have lost their homes and way of life is yet calculated, if it even can be. 

As to the dollar costs, to date we have spent over $3,000,000,000,000.  For those not used to this many zeros, that is three trillion dollars. To put all this in some perspective, we will have spent an average of $429 billion dollars for each of the more than seven years we have been at war in Iraq, equivalent to nearly half the budget deficit we face just in 2010.  Our ongoing costs are expected to exceed $12.75 billion for the one additional year our 50,000 support soldiers are expected to remain in country. But unlike with past wars, no tax was assessed to pay for this endeavor, contributing greatly to the extraordinary national debt that has now become topic-one as we come into the next election cycle. The true extent of our investment in the war in Iraq  – the lives and families destroyed, dollars spent and moral standing we lost as the world’s only super power – likely will never be known.

This leads to two, difficult questions.  First, what have we gained, and second and perhaps more importantly, has it been worth it?  Yes, a despot has been removed, but who has or will in time fill the void?  Is the Middle East any more stable than it was before we invaded?  Is Iran – notably on the list of “regimes of terror” in 2002, unlike Iraq, which never was – any less a threat to the world than it was at the beginning of the war?  Or with today’s growing Al Qaeda presence in Iraq has Iran been empowered to an even greater position than it was before we started this war?  Have we aided the effort to establish lasting peace for Israel or have we made that even more difficult?

In 2003 former President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier to stand beneath a banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished.”  He then spoke to the nation and proudly declared our invasion of Iraq a success.  It was not then, and it remains unclear even today just exactly what that success he to which he was referring might have been, let alone what mission in the country’s interests we had actually accomplished.  The non-existence of the weapons of mass destruction that were the purported basis for our invasion in the first place makes the mission all the more troubling.

The decision to invade Iraq will undeniably haunt our economy for years to come.  Yet sadly, we continue down this same undefined path in Afghanistan.  But as of last night, the war is over.  Some may argue too soon; others not soon enough, but we all solute the men and women who served their country in Iraq with honor and valor. They have the gratitude of a troubled nation.


17 responses to “Iraq – Was it worth it?

  1. Good post! It’s a shame that such a questionable war had to go on for so long.

    Your statement: “Yet sadly, we continue down this same undefined path in Afghanistan,” seems to be true in and out of the context of war. We are definitely in a “troubled” place, and it seems that America is floundering in attempts to follow in its own footsteps.

  2. The contributor failed to mention the 14+ UN resolutions that Saddam ignored, the hundreds of thousands of civilians he butchered, and the support the US had from the UK, Australia, etc. And, our Congress passed the Iraq War Resolution almost unanimously….however, Obama failed to cast a vote at all. He couldn’t make up his mind…or maybe he didn’t want us to bomb his brothers. He is a closet Muslim…..that was the first tip!

  3. Bob, maybe the best essay you have posted since your blog began. Good job finding this thoughtful, articulate contributor.

  4. Swordfish…I am sure she finds herself to be a fair-minded, objective observer….or, perhaps, a legend in her own mind!

  5. Either way, impressive.

  6. A 20 to 50 year hindsight will probably reveal if it was worth it. The Iraq War was the USA’s first attempt to fight terrorism. It may not have been the best way to try to protect the USA from attacks like 9/11/01. We know we have a serious enemy that intends to do harm but is very difficult to identify and fight.

  7. Atlantic:

    The problem is that Iraq had nothing to do with either 9/11 or any other terrorist threat to the United States at that time. Remarkably, Saddam had kicked Al Qaeda out of the country, and there was no evidence of his harboring any others of their ilk. It was only after the WMDs were never found that the neocons ramped up their efforts to associate Saddam with 9/11 and terrorism as an alternative justification for the war.

    Yes, there is justification for taking out known terrorists wherever they may be before they can attack us, or anyone else. But that was not the case for our invasion of Iraq then, nor now. Bush did include Iraq as one of the three countries he wanted us to believe constituted the “Axis of Evil” but even his own supporters challenged the claim that Iraq constituted a terrorist threat to our country. Perhaps a threat to the stability of the Middle East (based on the false conclusion that Saddam held or was building WMDs), but not a terrorist threat. Interestingly, and as an aside, some of these same people include Cuba as a country harboring and supporting terrorists as a basis for continuing our absurd embargo. But when asked they can provide no evidence of such.

    Such, sadly, seems to be the way of our political system these days.

  8. Sword, Suddam used WMD on his own people (chemical). It was logical reasoning and was also supported by CIA belief that he had and was developing more WMD and there was full support by the majority of all of our leadership before the war on Iraq was declared. As I said, it may not have been the wise things to do, but I am grateful to our leadership that more attacks on American soil have not happened. Did you lose anyone in the 9/11 attack?

  9. Swordfish…your arguments disgust me! Have you ever fired a bullet in defense of this country? I’ll bet not! If you love socialism so much, why not move to France….we don’t need you in America!

  10. Yes, I did. And I was also there to witness the aftermath of the attack in Washington DC, with the smoke from the Pentagon in view from my hotel window.

    I, too, am grateful there have been no further successful attacks of the like of 9/11 on our country, but hold no realistic hope that will forever remain the case. With our freedoms come risk, and whether Islamic or homegrown, a terrorist by definition will always be able to bring to us the terror he or she seeks. One must only look to the most recent (bumbled) attempt to bomb Times Square to realize how easy it is and will always be. Or to the past with Timothy McVey.

    Historically all free and even not so free societies have suffered from terrorism, whether it be the Guy Fox bombing of Great Britain’s parliament, the IRA bombings in Ireland in the 1970s, or the more recent bombing attack in Mombai. It is not and has never been exclusive to Islamic extremists.

    Iraq had nothing to do with what happened on 9/11. That is a fact. What can also be said, and has been said by more than one General fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that our invasion of Iraq has, if anything, has assisted those who want to bring their terror to our shores with their recruiting of more and more individuals sadly willing to die for their incredibly horrific cause.

    When we look back maybe history will be kind to the decision to invade Iraq. But in my view the war and its affects will be with us for many years to come.

  11. IraqSoldier26, thank you for the sacrafice you made to protect all Americans. I salute you and honor you. May God Bless you.

  12. Only an official NFL Bush hater could believe that Geroge W. Bush would knowingly misrepresent intelligence information to justify going to war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds. He ignored multiple UN resolutions. He repeatedly sabre rattled. It’s easy to look back and declare that the pre-war intelligence was wrong. We now know this. I refuse to believe that our leaders falsified intelligence to justify sending troops into harm’s way. Hussein played a game of chicken with the wrong people. He payed the price. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.

    War is both tragic and expsnsive. Nothing will bring back the brave soldiers who have given their lives in the Iraq conflict. Lets honor their memory by following through on our commitments to the Iraqi people. Our country’s honor is at stake.

  13. The questions asked in the essay Bob posted above were (1) what did we gain and (2) was it worth it. Those questions remain for all of us as we consider not only the decision to invade Iraq but what we want our government to do given similar situations certainly will arise in the future. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.

    To Freddie’s comment I can only respectfully ask the following. At the time we went to war in Iraq, we knew for a certainty that North Korea had the ultimate of weapons of mass destruction, the capability to build and launch an atomic bomb. We then suspected to the same extent we suspected Saddam had WMDs that Iran was similarly situated. Yet notwithstanding our having effectively contained Saddam by controlling his airspace why did we nonetheless go to war there, but not in North Korea nor Iran? And why did we do so knowing it would impede our ability to succeed in Afghanistan, where an immediate national security interest existed, given what our government had to know would be an incredible draw from our not unlimited military resources?

    There was no “yellow cake” and there was no immediate threat by Iraq to any American interests. The same could not be said of North Korea, Iran, or Afghanistan, and arguably the very same circumstances that were used to justify the invasion in Iraq continue to this very day in North Korea and Iran.

    This is not Bush bashing. These are the same questions history will ask for years to come, and are questions as patriotic American citizens we all have the duty to ask of our elected leaders any time they consider sending our sons and daughters off to war. And it is the day we stop asking these questions that we fail as a country and lose our honor, not the other way around.

    To IraqSoldier 26, an American questioning his government’s decision to go to war does not make him or her a socialist. If otherwise were true, our entire military, from the Pentagon up to a new Private would all be headed, as you suggest, off to France.

  14. Daniel Henniger of the WSJ offers his thoughts about “If Saddam Had Stayed!” Very interesting…

  15. Sorry, swordfish, but you are so off-base! I still say you should head to gay Paris….but, it you need medical care when you are there, God help you! You seem very proud of this post….did you write it?

  16. Swordfish…has it ever occured to you that private citizens may not know every detail our leadership has knowledge of, due to security reasons? I would sure hate for you to be the person in charge of my security.

  17. IraqSoldier26 makes a couple of very good points.

    It seems to me the author of the post is fairly self-evident. However, I must say it is rather bad form to praise your own post overtly.

    In spite of the best efforts of the far left leaning Democrats and their supporters, some intelligence remains classified. I too believe that those who send our troops into harms’s way have better information than we do.

    The Iraq war could have easily been prevented. All Saddam had to do was comply with the UN resolutions and let the inspectors do their job. It’s a lot like a policeman in a tough neighborhood telling a suspect to take his hands out of his pockets. You either comply or suffer the consequences. Saddam and his thuggish boys learned this lesson the hard way.

    The costs of the Iraq war have been horrendous. We’ve lost over 4000 men and women which is tragic. The economic impact of eight years of war are less than the cost of the Obama stimulus package. Combat operations in Iraq are over…for now.

    Unfortunately the stimulus plan has been far less successful than our investment in the Iraq war. Using the author’s logic and his or her 20/20 hindsight, Obama lied and the economy died. Admittedly, this is as ludicrous as the mantra that Bush lied and people died.

    Bush’s reputation and legacy are on the rise. Obama is growing more unpopular everyday. You want to know who has exhibited leadership on the Iraq war, ask the soldiers. It is not a close call.

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