by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
June 19, 2014
WE BROKE IRAQ, AND THERE'S LITTLE WE CAN DO TO FIX IT
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The U.S. invasion of Iraq was, hands down, the biggest foreign policy mistake in our nation's history.
In a sane nation, the people who dreamed up that deadly mix of hubris, vanity, and incompetence would be locked away and never heard from again.
But ours is no longer a sane nation, and President George W. Bush and his Administration, the people who who took this nation into a war of choice based upon a foundation of lies, are now back in the spotlight, most recently with former Vice President Dick Cheney trying to blame President Barack Obama for Iraq's ongoing plunge into sectarian chaos.
But Mr. Obama wasn't the President that presided over the biggest foreign policy mistake in U.S. history, He and his Administration didn't cook up all the different flavors of lies that were used to justify the invasion.
All these rationales were lies from the get-go, but few in Congress or in the news media were willing to call out the Bush Administration for trying to rush this nation into an illegal and immoral war based on lies.
The butcher's bill for this blunder? Nearly 4,500 American soldiers that have died, more than 33,000 soldiers seriously wounded, and more than 200,000 soldiers that came home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Add to that the Iraqi civilians that died (estimates range from about 200,000 to more than 1.4 million - no one knows the exact number) and 2.8-million Iraqis who were either internally displaced or in exile.
Add to that the monetary cost to our nation of the Iraq invasion - more than $2 trillion, and steadily rising. That's far away from the Bush Administration's estimate of $60 billion as the cost for invading Iraq - a war they claimed would pay for itself through revenues from Iraq's oil industry.
The people who created this war, and the people who enabled it to happen, have escaped punishment. Nobody has been held accountable. Yet, as Iraq falls apart amid a civil war that many expected to happen, the same people who lied, or enabled the lies about Iraq, want a U.S. "do-over."
And we have a new set of bogeymen, now that al-Qaida is moribund after a decade of war with the west. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is the Sunni jihadist group that seeks to establish dominance in Syria and Iraq and create an Islamic state like that which existed before the region's maps were redrawn by the West after World War I.
These people didn't exist a dozen years ago. The seeds for ISIL's existence were sown when the U.S. invaded Iraq, destroyed Iraq's secular nationalist institutions, such as the military and the civil service, and created a corrupt Shiite-dominated government to replace Saddam's secular Sunni regime.
Remember the reason why U.S. troops left Iraq? They left because the Iraqi government wanted our soldiers to leave, with the full support of the Iraqi people. And since Mr. Obama became President, our nation has spent more than $25 billion to arm, train and prop up Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's government in Iraq, the regime that's being targeted by ISIL.
Air strikes, drone attacks, or token numbers of U.S. "advisors" to help the Maliki government won't make a difference. Quite frankly, the Sunnis have a legitimate beef: They've been disenfranchised, brutalized and oppressed, and see no way to make themselves heard and improve their lives other than violence.
There is a very real possibility the Maliki government will fall, and Maliki will be held accountable for crimes against his own people. If that happens, the U.S. should accept it.
I have no idea what the U.S. could do to end the civil war in Iraq, but It's pretty clear that our track record in Iraq over the past four decades has been dismal at best and disastrous at worst.
It's time for Iraqis to decide how their country will be run, without interference from other nations.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.