Before we pull the trigger on another military action anywhere for any reason, we should consider what resulted from the Bush II’s Administration decision to ignore the evidence and invade Iraq under the false pretenses that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was aiding Al Qaida. I count six major outcomes of the Iraq War, all bad:
1. The enormous loss of lifeEstimates of casualties range from 100,000 to more than 600,000 deaths. Many people are starting to use the Brown University figures for deaths:
- 4,488 U.S. soldiers
- 3,400 U.S. mercenaries (AKA military contractors)
- 319 soldiers from allied countries
- 56,000 Iraqi military and security personnel
- 134,000 Iraqi civilians
These numbers refer to deaths alone and do not include the number of people wounded.
2. The destruction of Iraqi society and economy
Iraq has devolved from a totalitarian-authoritarian state to a fragmented and fractionalized mess that is impossible to govern. The economy is still in shambles. One estimate sets at over a million the number of displaced Iraqis. Displaced means they can’t live where they used to live anymore because of the destruction.
3. The cost of the war, now trillions of dollars and still rising
Along with its twin folly in Afghanistan, the Bush II invasion of Iraq has bankrupted the United States. To the degree that the United States has a real deficit problem, it has not been caused by social spending or the bill for Baby Boomer Social Security. No, it’s the Iraq-Afghanistan war spending combined with the enormous tax cut given to the wealthy during the Bush II years. If you wonder why there are fewer cops on the beat, why your brother-in-law was kicked out of a job training program, why there are more kids in your daughter’s fourth grade class or why you’re waiting at the airport longer, remember that you’re paying so that we could invade Iraq while the rich squirrel away the extra cash they have from lower taxes.
4. The creation of the American torture gulag
The Iraq War served as the main staging ground for the Bush II Administration’s illegal, ineffective and immoral torture program.
5. America’s loss of respectThe U.S. reputation and credibility plummeted around the world. The world saw us lie, run a war incompetently, resort to torture and then lie some more. By invading Iraq we surrendered whatever sympathy we had gathered in the Arab world and elsewhere following 9/11.
6. The tainting of our political processBy all rights, Bush, Cheney and their henchmen should have all been prosecuted for lying to the country about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and illegally establishing a world-wide program of torture. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached for one instance of domestic espionage against the opposing party. Bill Clinton was impeached for telling one lie about an affair. And yet not only has Congress not brought Bush II and Cheney to justice, the Obama Administration has sought to bury their crimes under the guise of “looking forward.”
Contemplating the ways that the Iraq War destroyed Iraq while harming Americans in so many direct and indirect ways, I am reminded of a Pete Seeger song about war in general that was made famous 50 years ago during another stupid war. The song is “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Thinking of Iraq and the possibilities of an invasion of Iran, I close my eyes and I can almost hear the sweetly plaintive voices of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stockey and Mary Travers knit together harmoniously for the last line of each verse, “Oh, when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”
When will we ever learn?