Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Iraq War: Not a pretty picture 10 years later

AFTER 9/11, it didn't take long before American shock transmuted to white hot anger. With the sound of those jet engines slamming into the Twin Towers still ringing in my ears, I vividly recall my own rage. President Bush stoked it further when he stood atop the rubble in New York and said, "I can hear you ... and the people who knocked down these walls will hear from all of us soon." Understandably, America was spoiling for a fight and we wanted our pound of flesh. We unthinkingly gave Bush carte blanche to get it. He unthinkingly obliged us with the Iraq War, launched 10 years ago this month. The Butcher of Baghdad had nothing to do with 9/11. But there was a seductive logic to knocking him off: In theory, he could potentially arm terrorists with WMDs in the future. But how great was this potential? Virtually nil. But that is the crucial question that should have been asked -- but wasn't -- before spilling blood in Iraq. And so Bush invaded Iraq willy-nilly with a 2-to-1 ratio of support from the American people. The cost: Eight years of war, at least a trillion dollars in US treasury, 36,709 dead and wounded American soldiers plus 50,152 Iraqi civilian fatalities. And, in the end, the war bought us the world's 9th most politically unstable country, according to the think-tank Fund for Peace. But aren't the Iraqis better off without Saddam? Yes, unquestionably. But was it worth the price we Americans paid? Before attempting to answer that question, I'd advise asking the 1% of Americans who endured multiple, PTSD-inducing combat tours in Iraq -- and the families of the 4,486 U.S. soldiers who returned home in coffins.

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