by Joe Shea
March 29, 2013
AN AMERICAN'S ADVICE TO N. KOREA: GROW UP
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Ten years ago this week, the U.S. invasion of Iraq began.
The butchers' bill for the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the United States?
Most know about the nearly 4,500 American soldiers that have died in Iraq, and the more than 33,000 soldiers that have been seriously wounded, and the more than 200,000 soldiers that came home with PTSD.
Add the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the total U.S. death toll is more than 6,660.
Many forget about how many Iraqi civilians died (estimates range from about 200,000 to more than 1.4 million, no one knows the exact number) and 2.8 million Iraqis either internally displaced or in exile.
That's the human cost. Then there is the monetary cost to our nation.
According to Brown University's Costs of War Project, the cost of 10 years of war in Iraq is about $2.2 trillion. That doesn't count the $80 billion spent on "rebuilding" Iraq, most of which was stolen.
Add in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the bill is about $4 trillion.
That is a long way off from the $60 billion that was the Bush Administration's estimate of the cost for invading Iraq, a war they claimed would pay for itself through revenues from Iraq's oil industry.
But that was just one of the many lies that got us into an illegal, immoral, and needless war.
We were told about the threat of Saddam Hussein and his supposed stash of weapons of mass destruction. Conveniently forgotten was that the U.S. helped install Saddam as leader of Iraq in the late 1960s, armed Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980s, and all but destroyed Saddam's efforts at gaining nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the 1991 Gulf War and the decade of sanctions and UN inspections that followed.
We were told about Saddam's ties with al-Qaida. Conveniently forgotten was the fact that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington, and that Osama bin Laden loathed Saddam.
We were told that U.S. soldiers would be greeted as liberators. Conveniently forgotten was the fact that there was no plan for postwar Iraq, save for trying to transform it into a free-market paradise, and that the liberators would be fighting a counterinsurgency war for years after President Bush declared "mission accomplished."
Lie upon lie upon lie. But the Bush Administration got away with it, enabled by the spineless Democrats who were more concerned about political expediency rather doing the right thing, and an equally spineless corporate media afraid to challenge the status quo.
A month before the U.S. invasion, in the largest global protest in history, millions mobilized around the world to try to stop the war from happening. While those voices were ignored, these protests were the first sign of the extent of the isolation the United States would experience over Iraq. You could argue that the seeds of the Arab Spring of 2011 were sown in 2003 by the global resistance to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
For more than a decade, from the moment the World Trade Center came tumbling down to now, I have written pieces opposing the so-called Global War on Terror. I am proud to be among the few who weren't afraid to call BS! on the Bush Administration and the cowardly politicians who were to afraid to point out the obvious - that this illegal and illegitimate war did not have to happen.
But the people who created this war, and the people who enabled it to happen, have escaped punishment. Nobody has been held accountable. Nobody in a position of power has learned anything, and many of the architects of the Iraq debacle are dreaming of a similar invasion of Iran.
The people who were right from the very beginning about the invasion of Iraq - who put up with all sorts of abuse for doing so until proven right - still aren't taken seriously and are kept out of the corporate media.
And even though there's a different President in the White House, little has changed. President Obama withdrew nearly all of the combat troops from Iraq, but they were replaced by "private military contractors," otherwise known as mercenaries, that are still stationed at the giant U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Iraq remains politically unstable. A pro-Iranian government is in control, and the 500 U.S. military bases and outposts that were part of the occupation are either closed or in Iraqi hands. It remains a devastated nation with infrastructure incapable of reliably delivering basic services such as electricity and water.
Then there is the bigger legacy of Iraq - the increased militarization of American society, the loss of civil liberties, the routine flouting of international law. We are now trapped in a nation that is in a perpetual war that keeps expanding with each passing year. The national security state keeps growing, and the government keeps claiming new powers that were unthinkable a decade ago.
If there was true justice, we would see President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the rest of the high-ranking figures in his Administration facing a war crimes tribunal in the Hague. They would be joined by every member of Congress that voted to invade Iraq.
They would be joined by the generals that carried out the war plans and presided over the occupation. They would be joined by President Obama, and the top members of his Administration, who kept the war going, They would be joined by the propagandists in the media, who fanned the flames for war to make more money.
A true apology is impossible, but the United States owes an enormous debt to the people of Iraq, a debt that mere monetary reparations can't begin to pay.
This is a debt that can begin to be repaid on the day that the United States turns away from war and empire, and transforms itself into a nation that never again wages an illegal war based on lies, hubris, and greed.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, has been an award-winning journalist in New England for 30 years.