The Shock and Awe Campaign that started 10 years ago this week should have been called the Lies and Deceit Campaign.
“The Americans won the war, the Iranians won the peace and the Turks won the contracts,” said the Financial Times.
It might have added the losers were the tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans who were killed and wounded, the American taxpayers whose tab is estimated at $1,7 trillion – with a T – and will go on paying for generations in support for wounded veterans and for an administration that lied about the cost, cut taxes instead of paying for its unnecessary war, squandered a budget surplus and saddled generations to come with the bill.
And what did we get? A pro-Iranian Shiite-led Iraqi government that told us to get out. Which we did in December 2011.
It was a war built on lies and planned from the day Bush took office, if not earlier,. There were many excuses, all lies. There never were any WMD, no connection to 9/11, no yellow cake uranium, no al-Qaida – but why bother waiting for the truth when it might interfere with starting America’s first war of choice.
By that time Saddam Hussein – a genuine bad guy who is in a well-deserved corner of Hell – was no threat to the United States, to Israel (a popular administration excuse) or anyone outside his own country, with the possible exception of Iran.
It is good that Saddam is gone, but was it worth the price? He sent money to the families of terrorists who killed Israelis, threatened to incinerate Israel and rained Scud missiles on the Jewish state during the first Gulf war. But was he an existential threat to Israel? Not by the 21st Century.
And it was untrue that the Israeli government backed the war or that American Jews lobbied for it.
Over the previous decade, after the first Bush administration reluctantly established no-fly zones and the international community imposed tough sanctions, Saddam was no longer an international threat. He tried to cheat, deceive and violate the sanctions, but he no longer had a WMD program or an air force and was no threat to world or even regional peace except in the minds of the jingoists in the Bush administration.
One of the lasting images of the war is President Bush in a flight suit strutting on the deck of an aircraft carrier under the sign “Mission Accomplished.”
But the war wasn’t the advertised “piece of cake,” and the fighting and dying would go on for several more years.
Today more than half of all Americans think the war was a mistake. Over 1 million Americans were deployed to Iraq, many for several tours. More than 4,485 were killed, another 32,331 wounded, many maimed for life. Nearly a quarter of a million veterans had to wait a year or longer to get benefits.
When the Army chief of staff suggested to the Congress — correctly — that the administration was under-estimating the number of troops that would be needed, he lost his job. Truth-telling was apparently an unforgiveable sin when building a war on a foundation of lies.
Iran was the big winner. The United States had destroyed Iran’s number one enemy, the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein, and replaced it with the government of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Islamic State of Iraq today has closer relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran than with the United States, which put it in power at great sacrifice.
Removing Saddam gave Iran a Shi’ite crescent of influence stretching westward from the Arabian sea to the Mediterranean, crossing Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and dipping down into the Gaza Strip and the Sinai.
The United States also is a loser because the war launched a decade of decline in American influence in that part of the world.
Today there are really three Iraqs, none at peace with the other. The Shi’ite country run by al Maliki and allied with Iran, the Sunni heartland where the people resent America driving them from power and a homeland for the Kurds who threatened to break away and establish and independent Kurdistan.
The 10th anniversary was marked on Tuesday by a dozen bombings around the country killing 50 Iraqis and wounding at least three times that number.
Turkey, which blocked deployment of U.S. forces through its territory for the 1993 invasion, has become “one of the prime beneficiaries of the battle for the Iraqi market,” reports the Financial Times. Economic ties between Iraq and Turkey are “booming” and Turkish exports to Iraq have soared, it said, even if political relations between the two are “increasingly bitter.”
Meanwhile we’re still embroiled in a war in Afghanistan where the country’s volatile leader, Hamid Karzai, has accused the United States of conspiring with the Taliban so we can stay there.
The late Sen. George Aiken had a solution to the Vietnam war that President Obama would be wise to consider for this one: “Declare victory, go home and have a parade.”