IRAQ: Dreams vs. Realities

Posted September 6, 2010 on 3:15 pm | In the category Economy, Iraq, Press | by Jeff

In Iraq, brief triumph subsided through criminal incompetence into fractured mayhem, leaving more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead and concluding in the fluid uncertainty of sporadic violence and democratic deadlock. No intellectual contortion – even with important stirrings of political give-and-take in Iraq – can ever inscribe Operation Iraqi Freedom in the annals of U.S. victories. — Roger Cohen, NY TIMES, 9/2/10

Cohen says what most media analysts avoid saying as they celebrate a self defined   “success” in Iraq. The war began on a lie, proceeded to kill at least 100,000 Iraqis and some 4000 American soldiers, spent and committed over $3 trillion, in American tax payers’ money, enhanced Iran’s influence in the region, left over 35,000 American soldiers seriously wounded, tarnished America’s reputation, debased our politics and exposed the American media as gung-ho cheerleaders for a war we chose to start on non-existent evidence of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Much of the analysis has focused on the “success” of the surge. While the surge contributed to controlling the security needs, most reporting – as compared to op ed analysts – noted the more significant contribution made by buying the Sunnis’ support by paying the “Sons of Iraq”, the Sunni militia that turned against al-Queda in Iraq in 2006.  Unfortunately, as Uthman al-Mukhtar reports in the Eurasia Review, “…pro-government Sunni militias have accused Iraq’s national leaders of leaving them in poverty and vulnerable to violence. The warnings come as al-Qaeda employs a mix of intimidation and enticement to lure Sunni fighters to joint the insurgents.” Having played a major role in bailing out the failed U.S. effort in Iraq they are now left to their own devices to deal with a political stalemate that has proven to be unable to even form an operating government and that has left the Sunnis out of the functioning economy.

Sunday’s Washington Post carried an op ed by Nobel Prize economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, and his co-author and researcher Linda J. Bilmes, that updates his earlier estimates of the true cost of the war to America. Their piece – “The True Cost of the Iraq War: $3 Trillion and Beyond” –  is depressing but essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the true costs of the Iraq adventure.

But the major issue that seems never to really get addressed is: Was it worth it? Or put another way, was it in our national interest to spend that much money and human resource on a war that has given us an Iraq that is almost totally dysfunctional, an Iran with more influence in Iraq than before the war, an Afghanistan too long neglected and now significantly controlled by the Taliban, an American deficit that eliminates the political possibility of stimulating the economy further, 100,000 Iraqi dead, some 4 million Iraqi refugees, the disillusionment of many of our allies, and a war that continues even as we partially depart. We got rid of Saddam and his sons and gave ourselves a pat on the back. But was it really worth it?

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