Our role in the Iraq War may be over, but the costs are still mounting up. According to a study by a Harvard researcher, the financial cost to the US has surpassed $4 trillion, and if the cost of care for wounded warriors is included, the overall cost could grow to as much as $6 trillion!
Yet that cost pales in comparison to the human cost. The US lost 4,486 soldiers in Iraq. Our allies lost an additional 318. And, according to a new report by Johns Hopkins University, an estimated 500,000 Iraqis died, including 200,000 who died from disease because of failed infrastructure and the fact that they couldn’t get to hospitals or doctors in order to receive treatment.
What makes these numbers even worse is that Bush’s neocon nincompoops used visions of mushroom clouds to sell this unnecessary war of choice. They claimed that the invasion would only last “a matter of days, not weeks,” that it would “pay for itself” and the Iraqis would “welcome us as liberators.” Most disturbing, an official who was inside the Bush administration said that the real reason we went to war in Iraq was that Afghanistan had been “too easy,” and after 9/11, “we wanted to kick some ass.”
The invasion of Iraq also conveniently fit Richard “The Dick” Cheney’s Plan for a New American Century which called for using our position as the world’s lone superpower to force our economic will on the world. He also called for the transformation of America’s defenses by establishing a firm military foothold in the Middle East, but warned that the process would likely be a long one, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”
9/11 was just such an event.
Given the opportunity, Cheney and his fellow neocons took charge and began planning the invasion of Iraq immediately following 9/11. It made no difference that Iraq had absolutely no role in the attacks. This knowledge should weigh heavily on the conscience of every American. It should cause us to reconsider the process with which we make decisions to go to war. Such decisions should never be opportunistic. They should be the result of a careful, reasoned and agonizing debate. They should be viewed as an absolute last resort.
“Wanting to kick some ass” as a justification to go to war rightfully ranks those in the Bush administration right alongside Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi as bullies, despots and war criminals.
Despite being at war for most of our history, it seems Americans still don’t understand the consequences of war. Maybe that’s because the last war to be fought on US soil was the Civil War. For nearly 150 years, Americans have largely viewed war as something that happens to someone else. Moreover, our most recent wars have been fought by a tiny percentage of Americans.
It’s incredibly easy for people who have no real stake in combat to be war hawks…or, more accurately, chicken hawks. They want to fight…but on someone else’s land with someone else’s children. As demonstrated by the large number of deaths and the widespread destruction in Iraq, war has consequences – terrible, tragic, deadly consequences. War is rarely noble and honorable. War is ugly and bloody. Some people do extraordinarily brave things. But just as many commit awful, regrettable acts that stay with them for a lifetime.
Until we understand that, we can only dream of living in a world at peace.