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Was It Worth It?

Flag of the United StatesOn December 15, 2011, the United States formally ended military operations in Iraq. After almost nine years this nation was able to extricate itself from a war in which over 1.5 million American served, 30,000 were wounded, and 4,500 died. Of the Iraqi population, military and civilian, it’s estimated that over 100,000 died, and no one knows how many hundreds of thousands were wounded. As for the ultimate financial cost to the US, it’s been commonly estimated as around $1 trillion, and that’s the figure used by the New York Times.  Others believe that it’s complete cost is actually around $3 trillion. (Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, has calculated the cost — check it out, if you wish.)

The fantasy of a quick and easy war was confected by President George W. Bush and his Vice President Richard Cheney along with a group of civilian neo-conservatives who had never experienced combat, but who wanted to throw their ideological weight around. Inebriated by this country’s overwhelming military power, they had dreams of establishing a “beacon of freedom” which would magically lead other Middle Eastern countries to democracy and a commitment to free market economics.

The Iraqi military machine had been reduced to near impotence by our previous invasion and was no threat to us. Indeed, we controlled Iraq’s air space, flew missions over Iraq daily and destroyed any anti-aircraft facility that touched our aircraft with targeting radar. This was not a justifiable pre-emptive war — that’s when you strike before an immediately threatening enemy can strike at you. No, this was an optional war,  a phrase as horrible as it is bizarre.

Despite what our vice president told us, there was no dancing in Iraq’s streets when we overthrew that nation’s despotic regime, and Iraqis didn’t greet us as liberators. Nor did Iraq’s oil revenue pay for our war, as the vice president had promised. On the contrary, we kept on paying and paying and paying to rebuild the Iraq we had destroyed. Very soon we were regarded as occupiers. When we handed their country back to them on December 15 they didn’t say thank you. That was the same December 15 when we learned from our census bureau that half the people in the United States now live in poverty or are barely getting by on earnings that are classified as “low income.” All that blood and all that treasure — No, it wasn’t worth it.

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.