There are members of Congress, such as John McCain, who would like us to remember the last decade differently. They would like us to remember the Iraq war as a success. Before a whitewash covers the reality of what happened, we should take a moment to review the facts of the origin and outcome of the war.
If the intent of the Iraq war was to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction being used against us, it was a failure. If the intent was to wipe out a safe haven for Al Qaeda, it was a failure. If the intent was to encourage the formation of Western-style democracy in the Mideast, it was most probably a failure. If the intent was to guarantee a cheap and abundant supply of petroleum for the U.S., it was a miserable failure.
The war did accomplish some things. It got rid of a ruthless dictator, making life a little more bearable for the Kurds, and incidentally opening up opportunities for terrorist groups who were Saddam’s enemies. It made a lot of money for American weapons manufacturers. It did make possible a democratic government in Iraq, one that may not be openly hostile to America.
Was it worth it? Let us not forget that the U.S. was pushed into this war by the Bush administration on faulty information—nonexistent WMDs and false implications of Iraqi involvement with 9-11. It was done without international support. It was done purely on borrowed money, the first time a U.S. war was ever funded by cutting taxes. It was done while we were still heavily involved in Afghanistan, drawing resources away from a conflict that could be seen as justified for one that was not. And it was done with a great cost in human lives, coalition soldiers, civilians, and Iraqis. Actual deaths from the Iraq war were as follows:
- Coalition forces: 4,807
- Civilian contract employees: 1,487
- Journalists: 348
- Academics: 448
- Iraqi civilians: 114,000+
That doesn’t count the great number of terribly wounded. Was it worth the price? Was it a success? Let history decide, but let it be the history that actually happened, not a history redesigned for political purposes.
Credit for title image: Iraq, 2003: U.S. troops escort Shoshana Johnson, The Palm Beach Post.
Rachel Maddow hosted a documentary entitled Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, based on the book of the same name, that examined this matter. It aired on Friday, March 15, 2013.