Powerful Op-Ed on the Iraq War in the Kansas City Star by Peace Action national board Co-Chair Dave Pack
Iraq War Was the United States’ Greatest Foreign Policy Disaster
By DAVID J. PACK
Special to The Star
We should all stop to take solemn note that the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq on Dec. 17, 2011, nominally ending a war that was started by President George W. Bush in March 2003, almost 9 years ago.
I say “nominally” because the war continues in many very real ways for all Iraqis, but especially for some 3.5 million who are either internally displaced within Iraq or refugees in another country. It also continues for many of the 1,500,000 Americans who have served in Iraq and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical and mental health problems that have contributed to more of our troops committing suicide than dying in combat in recent years.
I view the Iraq War as the greatest foreign policy disaster in the history of the United States to this point in time (though the War in Afghanistan is running a good race here). It was an unprovoked act of military aggression against a nation that had not attacked us and posed no meaningful threat to us.
We were lied to about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. We were told it was about democracy and saving Iraqis from Saddham Hussein.
Tell that to the 100,000 or more Iraqis who have died during the war. Tell that to the Texans whose congressional districts were gerrymandered to elect more Republicans to Congress in 2004, or to voters in Ohio who saw voting machines placed abundantly in conservative areas but sparingly in liberal areas by a GOP state administration.
If we care about democracy, we need to look to the home front because our own democracy is increasingly an empty sham.
What is the reality of present day Iraq after our expenditure to date of over $800 billion, some 4,500 U.S. combat deaths, over 1,000 U.S. troop suicides and over 30,000 injured? The war has left a ruined country that was formerly one of the most advanced in the Middle East in terms of health and education:
Up to 70 percent lack access to clean water.
Up to 80 lack access to sanitation.
Half of the doctors are either dead or have emigrated.
Average electricity availability is 14.6 hours per day.
The $800 billion will grow substantially despite the war’s nominal end because as a nation we must keep our commitment to care for the veterans of this war.
To understand the magnitude of the potential costs, note that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has a proposed budget of $132 billion for 2012.
Sadly, the number of suicides will also grow with passing years.
While damning this war as a moral, humanitarian, financial, and foreign policy disaster for this country, let us affirm the sacrifices of the 1,500,000 who have served in Iraq. Their sacrifice is no less for them having been placed under false pretenses in a war that should not have been.
Indeed, for many of them the sacrifice has been overwhelming as they have returned to Iraq for additional tours of duty. So let’s honor those who served. Let’s be certain they receive the benefits they deserve for their service.
The sad reality is that the people who get us into misguided wars like this are inclined to deny war’s terrible consequences and seek to get out of paying for them so they can get on with their next war.
Don’t let our politicians break the promises made to our veterans.