Ten Things to Remember About the Iraq War
The tenth anniversary of one the nation’s longest and most controversial wars has been a very subdued affair which may be highly appropriate considering that the war only ended on December 31, 2011. We may wish to forget that moment ten years ago when President Bush addressed us from the Oval Office as he unleashed “Shock and Awe” on the Iraqi people, since few expected that what would unfold would be such an epic calamity.
Yet remember we must. On this first post-war milestone anniversary, we should remember the following:
More than 1.5 million Americans served in Iraq, which is slightly less than one in every 200 Americans. It placed a heavy strain on the volunteer army who had to face multiple deployments but recruitment levels kept pace except for the peak period of the war. As outgoing Defense Secretary Gates noted, such a prolonged war that was borne by only a few has served to widen the disconnect that separates the military from the wider society they have sworn to protect.
2. The Iraqi Price
The Brookings Institute estimates that 115,676 Iraqi civilians were killed during the war. The war also has caused a brain drain as 40 percent of Iraqi professionals were among the millions who left the country. Before the invasion there were 34,000 Iraqi physicians of which 12,000 left after the invasion and another 2,000 were killed. Iraqi’s standard of living has not returned to pre-war levels with fifty percent (50%) living in slum conditions as compared to only 17 percent in 2000.
3. The US Cost of War (Human)
Over the course of nearly 9 years of war: 4,474 American soldiers were killed; 32,226 injured; and as many as 450,000 vets are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (based on VA reports that 30% of vets treated have PTSD). Each of them had or have names, families and potential that a simple number can never convey or even begin to capture.
4. The US Cost of War (Economic)
The Iraq War operations and reconstruction efforts cost approximately $1.7 trillion; adding veterans’ health care and interest to the total and it could reach $6 trillion over a period of several decades. Iraq War spending accounts for approximately 25 percent of our present federal budget deficit.
What could that money had done if spent elsewhere? According to Gender Values: The Costs of War, by Susan Feiner:
When the nation spends one billion dollars on the military, 11,600 jobs are created. If that billion dollars was spent instead on education 29,100 jobs would be created. And if it were spent on health care almost 20,000 jobs would be created.
This is money that could have been used to fix our deteriorating infrastructure, provide health care and made education affordable for middle class Americans with plenty to spare.
In 2008, the Center for Public Integrity released Iraq: The War Card (Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War) which reviewed the statements of President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan and found at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001 that
were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses. On at least 532 separate occasions . . . Bush and stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both.
As publisher of BushLies.net, I documented hundreds of lies about the war and then lies about the lies. In Worse Than Watergate, John Dean charged that under the Bush-Cheney administration “it appears that mendacity has become public policy.” Nowhere was this more true than with Iraq.
6. Billions in Fraud
A Congressional report found that contract fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for as much as $60 billion or $1 for every $3.50 spent on contractors. This includes $30 billion on no-bid contracts given to companies such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. A government audit found that 98 percent of Iraq War contractors failed to comply with government fraud regulations.
This was all part of the Bush administration’s
opening the government trough for corporate looting; doubling the amount spent on government contracts to $412 billion and tripling the amount spent on no-bid or limited competition contracts. This resulted in over $1 trillion in contracts marked by significant fraud, waste or abuse not to mention the $8.8 billion in cash that simply disappeared in Iraq. The most infamous looter, Halliburton received over $130 billion in contracts under Bush and overcharged the government $100 million for a single day’s work.
7. Abu Ghraib
We were told that we went to Iraq as liberators and yet here we were using Saddam’s own torture chamber to torture Iraqi citizens. Americans were repulsed by the images that emerged and were rightfully outraged.
What is worse is not that Abu Ghraib was an isolated instance of abuses that occur during war-time, but that the United States had embraced torture. President Bush wanted Americans to believe that no other president has waged war against evil regimes or confronted this issue before. The reality is, however, that in each of the greatest challenges of American history, our leaders have chosen to follow the course of the founding fathers who, as historian David Fischer notes, believed that they had to beat the British “in a way that was consistent with the values”.
That is why Washington directed his troops to “(t)reat (British prisoners) with humanity” and Lincoln instituted a written code of conduct for the Union Army prohibiting “the intentional infliction of any suffering, or disgrace.”
John McCain, himself a victim of torture, said it plainly:
has nothing to do with al Qaeda, it has everything to do with America.
8. It Happened Here
This is not the tale of some misadventures of a third-world tyrant nor is it like the Vietnam era, when Presidents Johnson and Nixon escalated or began new wars without Congressional authority. Our Iraq misadventure was overwhelmingly approved by Congress as the authorization of the use of force in Iraq passed the House 297-133 and Senate 77-23. Even worse, the post-Watergate media was reluctant to challenge Bush on the Iraq claims and some even were complicit in promoting the Bush administration’s disinformation.
We should never forget that our government had been taken over by a bunch of ideologues and petty fools barking madly about “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast”.
9. Greeted Like Liberators
Days before the war, Vice President Cheney stated
Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.
It sums up the Bush administration’s hubris and should echo in the ears of any leader contemplating foreign adventures. Cheney was half right, however, as President Bush discovered during his farewell tour of Iraq when an Iraqi greeted his “liberator” by throwing a shoe at his head.
10. The Powell Doctrine is Alive and Well
As the war dragged on, President Bush lamented how those evil Iraqi’s had tricked us by letting us “win” before we knew what we were going to do. Bush called this a “catastrophic success”, but in reality it is just another leader learning the lessons of the Powell Doctrine (and in particular the requirement that any military adventure have a clear exit strategy) the hard way. Tragically, one of those leaders was Powell himself whose command performance before the United Nations made it all possible.
Powell has since referred to his United Nations performance as a “blot” and a low point, which may be how we all should remember the nearly nine years that was the Iraq War.
Bennet Kelley is an award-winning columnist, radio host and internet lawyer.
For more information visit bennetkelley.com.