The Iraq War was a massive mistake of American policy, and our society will feel its consequences for a long time. A military invasion based on a lie about nuclear weapons and subsequent improvisation about it left behind many scars. It also had an exorbitant cost, both in human and material terms.
The war was an act of arrogant ignorance by the Bush administration. Its lack of preparation to respond to events led to the chaos and instability of a regime that is permanently shaken by deadly sectarian violence.
The Iraqi people never asked to be freed from their dictator at a cost of almost 100,000 dead. They were victims of a desire in Washington to settle a score with Saddam, the ambition awakened by the possibility of having access to Iraqi oil and the neoconservative delusion of building a Western democracy in the Middle East.
At the same time, almost 1.5 million military service members went to Iraq. Of them, more than 4,800 died and over 32,000 were wounded. Soldiers, unlike in other wars, had several tours of duty. The effect of this repeated exposure to combat situations has resulted in a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder among troops.
Treating soldiers mentally and physically has a high cost. To this we must add approximately $728 billionthe price of the long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq, according to the Pentagon. In addition, more than $60 billion were used to rebuild the country, of which more than $8 billion might have been wasted.
Responsibility for this war and its cost falls both on the Bush administration and Congress, which was dominated by Republicans in both chambers. Back then, no one complained from the partisan ranks about the dishonesty of splitting the war budget from the federal budget to conceal the cost. Neither did they complain about the recklessness of not increasing taxes to pay for war spending.
Today’s federal debt began with this war. This was a Congress-approved military adventure that turned a surplus into huge deficits. President Obama’s policies were not the ones that did it. Many lawmakers should look into the mirror for the irresponsible ones, instead of looking toward the White House.
This is a tragic anniversary of a dreadful mistake that we will be paying for generations to come. The only thing we can expect is to have learned the multiple lessons of the Iraq War.