Iraq: Five Years and Counting

Five years ago, I was involved in an online Christian forum which frequently veered off topic and onto politics. The invasion of Iraq was a primary subject of conversation for much of 2003. Most of these people proudly counted themselves among the Religious Right, and staunchly defended the conquest. Even when no WMDs were found and the primary justification for the war proved to be a sham, these people were unwavering.

“It doesn’t matter,” they insisted. “Hussein was a menace, a tyrant. His people suffered at his hand, and they are better off liberated.”

I cautioned them to temper their exuberance. I agreed that Hussein was a thug, a brute, and a butcher (one who obtained the tools for his butchery courtesy of the Reagan administration…). But merely because Hussein had been deposed and then apprehended did not mean that Iraq had been “liberated.” Even putting aside the criminality of the war itself, the invasion could only be considered worthwhile if Iraq turned out better in Hussein’s absence. The invasion could not be judged from the point of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner and speech. Lets see where we are at five, ten, twenty years down the line.

So here we are, five years from that fateful day. Things have hardly gone as the administration presumed. They insisting that we would be greeted with flowers and chocolates, able to pull out in a couple years and a few billion dollars, leaving the seeds of an enlightened democracy to blossom in the the Fertile Crescent and spread throughout the Middle East.

What is the state of Iraq?

  • Iraq does indeed have a fragile, newborn Democratic government. If the U.S. doesn’t interfere and require Iraq to institutionalize their client status, as they did with Cuba after the Spanish-American war, and if the government doesn’t implode in sectarian/ethnic bickering, this might possibly develop into a legitimate and functional government.
  • Instead of several billion, the war has cost at least half a trillion dollars. In looking at the hidden costs of the war, Joseph Stiglitz suggests that the real cost is three trillion. Until our troops are entirely withdrawn, that figure continues to burgeon. There is no indication that either our current administration nor the Republican presidential nominee has any inclination to reduce our troop commitment.
  • Almost four-thousand U.S. troops have sacrificed their lives for the war. Actually, they’ve died. Many more than that have sacrificed their lives, now suffering emotional illness which may dog them for a lifetime, shattered marriages, and other tragedies. Again there is no reason to think these numbers won’t continue to climb.
  • Over 700,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the invasion. Well over four million have become refugees, displaced because of the chaos and violence. The basic infrastructure is still not restored to pre-war condition.
  • The national intelligence estimates for 2006 and 2007 suggest that the conquest of Iraq has resulted in the growth of terrorist organizations and increased their threat to our national security.
  • In the aftermath of the occupation, Al Qaeda has now established a presence in Iraq—one nonexistent before.

Maybe things will improve in the future. Maybe the violence is nearing its end. Maybe at ten or twenty years, we will see the beginnings of a prosperous Iraq, a model for a new, modern Middle East and ethnic/religious cooperation.

Or maybe things will take a turn for the worse. Maybe the region will explode in bloodshed, or this delicate coalition will snap and pave the way for some new bloodstained junta to take the reigns. Maybe the U.S. will be forced to maintain a presence, to establish a protectorate in Iraq to prevent rivers of blood—and perhaps to protect U.S. national interests. McCain isn’t opposed to a thousand years…

Who can know? All I can say is that here, at the five year anniversary of the War on Iraq, the results look questionable, and hardly worth the price.

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8 Responses to “Iraq: Five Years and Counting”

  1. D. Sirmize Says:

    I recommend an article by writer/conservative talk show host Bob Lonsberry. It’s an honest assessment of the Iraq war. It brings it all together better than I ever could. Your audience may find it refreshing.

  2. MarcusDcas Says:

    Thanks for a well balanced post. I thoroughly enjoy your blog.

    I just wanted to say that I’ve read through the link posted above by D. Sirmize and I’m sorry to say, it’s one of the most illogic pieces of garbage I’ve had the displeasures to read in a long time.

    Sorry for the pretty harsh wording, but when the images of crying children, devastated and maimed by the loss of their slaughtered mothers and fathers, have to stand against this kind of lame justifications I cannot do much else but to feel sick to the stomach.

    Illogic thinking I can stand, to say that by attacking a Muslim country has made America safer I can stand, it’s just pure stupidity, but when word like “it was worth it” and “It was brilliant and successful” is written in the context of hundreds of thousands dead most of them innocent, there’s nothing there but disgrace.

  3. Cstanford Says:

    It has been interesting to me to see the different opinions on the justness of the Iraq war/occupation within the LDS community, or at least the people I know. I’ve maintained the conviction that the war was scripturally unjustifiable, but it’s been interesting to see how some conservative LDS felt that it was, and how some even more conservative LDS have opposed it, sometimes for reasons that seemed bizarre to me. I haven’t cared to ask around to find out how many who supported it still do, but 5 years . . . that’s longer than we were involved in WWII. Comparisons with Vietnam are making more sense to me the longer we stay there.

    One of the saddest parts of it is how numb I’ve been to it a lot of the time until I see reminders like yours of how much time, life and resources it’s taken – and it’s still going on . . .

  4. D. Sirmize Says:

    MarcusDcas, did you read the article or just skim it? How about some logical refutations of the article rather than knee-jerk, predisposed reactions?

    Cstanford, does every decision the country makes need to pass your scriptural litmus test? Your argument reminds me of the Bible literalist who argues against a restoration because “it ain’t in the Bible.”

  5. MarcusDcas Says:

    Dear D.Sirmize

    I read it all, and it was not good. How about that for a logical refutation?


    Sorry, but at this moment I can’t handle another discussion like that. I respect your opinion, But I’m tired, there’s just to much destruction and misery for this war ever to be justifed.

    Perhaps another time, D. Sirmize.

  6. jennifer Says:

    I also believe this war was a bad idea from its inception. The sooner we can move on to other things, the better. The whole list of amorphous rationales for the war proves that it is lacking clear justification. There was no clear justification for this mess, never has been, never will be.
    Sirmize, I read the link and have to say it was disappointingly lame. The author states that we “captured the initiative in the war on terror” – – calling us the terrorists as though that’s something to boast about??? He further states “they wanted to fight our civilians in our country” When did Iraq threaten civilians here? Al Queda, as Derek wrote, was not there until the last couple of years. And no, fighting in “their ” territory does NOT give us any sort of military or propaganda advantage. Rather, it tends to disadvantage the invader, as many history lessons prove. Wishful thinking war proponents.

  7. Cstanford Says:

    D. Sirmize,

    Of course I impose a scriptural litmus test on the actions of my country. If the Book of Mormon isn’t really applicable to our world anymore, what good is it?

    I find plenty of indication throughout all the Standard Works that God pays attention to the actions of states and governments and makes judgments – and imposes consequences – on their morality. If you believe that we should be hard-nosed and realistic about the dirty work that governments have to do in the real world, you still won’t convince me that such dirty work is overlooked or approved in God’s eyes. Even those He claims as His instruments in working destruction are not given any justification for their actions: see Isaiah 10:5-19, for one example.

  8. D. Sirmize Says:

    I’m not sure parsing the reasons for invading Iraq have any real validity in the present. The Right will always see a connection between Radical Islam and oppressed Islamic States. The Left sees no connection whatsoever. The Right sees the Iraq war as an extension of the larger “War on Terror.” The Left does not.

    We haven’t been able to come to terms with each other on this in 5 years. We never will. The Right and Left arguments are framed completely differently. It’s like arguing PC’s and Macs. I could go into the strategies, the legalities, my interpretation of President Hinckley’s remarks at the time, etc., but it would do no good in this forum.

    The article I linked to gives, I believe, a pretty damning assessment of the Iraq war. Certainly not one the Bush Admin would be proud of. But because it ultimately concludes that the war is worth it long-term, it is dismissed outright. It’s lame because you disagree with it. It’s lame because you want it to be.

    Oh, and MarcusDcas- Mr. Can’t-handle-the-discussion-anymore- two words on that last response to mine: Cop Out.

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