By Rachel Brody |
An objective analysis that compares the costs of the war in Iraq with the benefits, something the Bush administration unfortunately did not do before its mindless, needless, senseless invasion, makes it clear that the Iraq war was not worth it.
The costs in blood and treasure are horrendous. Over the past eight and a half years, approximately 4,500 brave servicemen and women have lost their lives; another 32,000 have suffered physical wounds, and several hundred thousand psychological wounds, which have led to exponential increases in suicide, divorce, and spousal abuse rates.
In addition, millions of Iraqis have been killed, wounded, or displaced.
The direct financial cost to the U.S. taxpayer is about $1 trillion while the total cost, including caring for the wounded veterans and borrowing the money, will bring the total costs to between $3 trillion and $4 trillion, exacerbating our already massive federal debt.
But there are other costs as well. By invading Iraq before the task in Afghanistan was finished, we allowed the Taliban to regroup and unnecessarily prolonged that conflict, causing us to expend more blood and treasure. Moreover, by invading Iraq under false pretenses, we enhanced the al Qaeda and Iranian narrative that the U.S. seeks to conquer and occupy Muslim countries. This not only attracted new members to al Qaeda but enhanced the influence of Iran in the region.
What did we gain? Not much. The Iraqi people have not resolved their political differences, nor are they grateful for the blood and treasure we spilled to rid them of Saddam Hussein. In fact, on June 30, 2009, when American troops were forced to withdraw to their bases under the Status of Forces Agreement, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki proclaimed triumphantly, "We have repelled the invaders." The power and influence of Iran, a much bigger strategic threat to the United States, has been increased. Prime Minister Maliki spent the Saddam years in Iran, and it was the Iranians who persuaded Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Sadrist cleric, to support Maliki in forming a government and who persuaded him not to allow Americans to remain after December 2011. Finally, the Iraqi government supports Iran and opposes U.S. policy in the region. Currently it is supporting Iran's ally, the brutal Syrian dictator Assad, and in the 2006 war with Israel, it supported Hezbollah.
Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who commanded CENTCOM until 2000, argued before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam was contained and gravely weakened and that an invasion would be "a bay of goats." The Bush administration should have listened.
About Lawrence J. Korb Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute