Debate Club

Iraq War a Failure on All Fronts


What, exactly, did the Iraq war accomplish? Put aside the propaganda, a western-style democracy emerging at the core of the Arab world, and look instead at the public and private U.S. goals.

A reasonably peaceful country, with a more or less accountable democratic government, at least slightly concerned about human rights?

[Obama Fulfills Campaign Promise in Declaring Iraq War Over]

No. The speaker of Iraq's parliament described corruption spread through the government "like an octopus." Election fraud, armed attacks, and violence so high that one day this summer 89 Iraqis were killed. Torture in Iraqi prisons continues, including new charges of torture by a special forces unit directly accountable to the U.S.-backed prime minister. More than 2.7 million Iraqis are displaced within the country (almost seven times as many as in 2003), about 2 million more refugees outside Iraq.

A pro-U.S. government eager for permanent U.S. bases throughout the country?

No. The Iraqi government, though dependent on U.S. financial and military backing, couldn't win public support for keeping even a small contingent of U.S. troops in the country after the end of this year. All U.S. troops and Pentagon-paid contractors will be out, and all U.S. military bases closed. Thousands of State Department-paid contractors will remain, but all troops will be out, and all but 18 of the 500-plus U.S. bases have already been shut down or turned over to the Iraqi military.

An Iraqi government willing to allow a U.S. attack on Iran from its territory?

[Is the United States Safer 10 Years After 9/11?]

No. The Iraqi government, despite its dependence on U.S. money, arms and training, is much closer politically to the government of Tehran. The SOFA prohibits the U.S. from launching an attack on any other country from Iraqi territory, and clearly Iran is far more influential in Baghdad than Washington.

Are we safer? Of course not--the Iraq war has destroyed U.S. credibility, making the U.S. symbolic of torture and targeted assassination instead of freedom and democracy. Justified by lies about "WMDs" and launched in the face of global and UN rejection, the war undermined international law and turned the U.S. into a rogue state in the eyes of much of the world.

And the costs.

The human cost: 4,482 U.S. troops killed, more than 32,000 injured; 103,451–113,029 Iraqi civilians killed (estimates--the Pentagon "doesn't do body counts").

The economic cost: $802 billion and counting (not yet including the years ahead of multibillion-dollar healthcare costs for wounded veterans and more) could pay instead for converting 344 million U.S. homes to solar energy, or hiring 11.7 million elementary school teachers for a year, or providing 409 million low-income children with healthcare. Which makes us safer?

[Condoleezza Rice Should Have Quit Over Iraq War]

In the first years of the war, the National Intelligence Council called Iraq "a training and recruitment ground [for terrorists] and an opportunity for terrorists to enhance their technical skills." According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the effect on al Qaeda of the Iraq war was "accelerated recruitment."

Phyllis Bennis

About Phyllis Bennis Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies

Hussein, Saddam
Iraq war (2003-2011)

Other Arguments

30 Pts
The Iraq War Unnecessarily Prolonged the Conflict in Afghanistan

No – The Iraq War Unnecessarily Prolonged the Conflict in Afghanistan

Lawrence J. Korb Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress

9 Pts
'Biden Plan' Is the Most Realistic Solution in Iraq

No – 'Biden Plan' Is the Most Realistic Solution in Iraq

Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute

-26 Pts
This Was No War of Choice

Yes – This Was No War of Choice

Michael Rubin Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

-54 Pts
Iraq May Become a Reliable U.S. Ally

Yes – Iraq May Become a Reliable U.S. Ally

James Phillips Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation

-70 Pts
Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was Worth the Price

Yes – Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was Worth the Price

Abraham Sofaer George P. Shultz Distinguished Scholar and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution

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