“The vast scale of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan and the full devastation they have wrought are poorly understood by the US public and policymakers. It is imperative that we know who has been killed, what kinds of wounds and health declines have been suffered, and what kinds of economic costs and consequences have been incurred or profits made, and by whom. All of the costs of these wars have been consistently minimized, misunderstood, or hidden from public view.”
~ From the Recommendations section of the Costs of War report.
A recent study by the Costs of War project revealed the costs of the March 19, 2003, Iraq invasion. The results are devastating and some of them are highlighted below—some verbatim. The Costs of War website provides a more detailed report.
Cost to US taxpayers:
$1.7 trillion and counting with $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans. That figure including interest could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next ten years. (The initial estimate of this war was $50 to $60 billion.)
- Dead: 4,488 service members; 3,400 US contractors
- Wounded: Estimated 32,000
- Dead: At least 134,000—this figure doesn’t include indirect deaths and is expected to be much higher once a final analysis is made
- Wounded: 110,000, but probably several times higher
- Displaced: At least 2.8 million
It is difficult to get an accurate count of Iraqi deaths and injuries. Neta C. Crawford, author of Civilian Death and Injury in Iraq, 2003-2011 writes:
“The first reason that the numbers killed in Iraq have been so contested is politics. The United States was at great pains to underscore its commitment to avoid harming civilians in Iraq during the invasion in 2003 and the subsequent occupation.”
Crawford also refers to a 2008 RAND Corporation report, An Argument for Documenting Casualties, authored by Katherine Hall and Dale Stahl noting that it was not clear that “anyone in the U.S. military or Coalition is systematically collecting and analyzing” data on Iraqi civilian fatalities.
Lies fed to the American public:
- Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. None were ever found.
- Estimates for the duration and cost of war proved to be a fraction of the real costs.
- Dick Cheney believed and stated that Iraqis would “welcome us as liberators.”
- Saddam Hussein was allied with Al Qaeda, therefore connected to 9/11. 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in 9/11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, the remaining were from Egypt, Lebanon, and the UAE. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it.
- George W. Bush’s theatrics on May 1, 2003, declaring “mission accomplished.”
- The $212 billion reconstruction effort was mostly a failure; most of the money was spent on security or lost to waste and fraud
- The conflict weakened the already precarious healthcare system; more than half of Iraqi doctors have left the country.
- War-related environmental damage and toxins led to increased occurrences of cancer and birth defects.
- The UN estimated Iraqi universities needed $2 billion dollars for rebuilding. In 2004, a request was made to Congress for $1.2 billion; a mere $8 million was granted.
A Thriving Democracy? Hardly.
- Iraq’s government is a limited form of democracy, and it is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Iran’s influence in Iraq has grown, while America’s is waning.
- There is increasing radicalism of Islamic militants in the region and an increased trend towards sectarian conflict and violence.
- Women’s rights have been set back.
The Iraq war officially ended December 15, 2011. This was a pre-emptive war of choice, not one of necessity. The results above—and multitudes of additional devastating ones and controversial issues this post doesn’t address—are stark reminders of the disastrous consequences of rushing to war and of those in power who, through their own foolishness and hubris, neglect to envision the long-term negative consequences of combat, of interfering in another country’s sovereignty, of trying to reshape the rest of the world in America’s image without a plan in place should those grand schemes fail.
Politicians, the media, and the American public are all responsible for making sure that war is always a last resort and that transparency and accountability are adhered to, especially related to the integrity of financing and auditing and the way military personnel, contractors, and diplomats conduct themselves on foreign soil. All human life is precious, not only American ones. Those “unpatriotic” souls who opposed the invasion…they were right.
Please take a moment to read the Recommendations section of this report.
Originally posted at The Feisty Liberal