This Notorious Quagmire

Posted on March 20, 2012 at 4.10 pm

On this ninth Iraqiversary, it seems important to pause a moment to take a look at the past, present, and future of this most notorious quagmire.

When we invaded Iraq in 2003, I was 15 and vaguely supportive of the war out of a naive assumption that if they said we had to bomb Iraq to keep from being nuked, then bomb Iraq we must.  Nine years later it is uncomfortably obvious (and indeed has been for quite a while) that I — and quite a few other people at the time who lacked the plea of youthful error — was wrong:  “The most popular argument to support the Iraq war in 2003 was the one about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)….All of it turned out to be lies. Iraq didn’t possess a single WMD. Far from being a military threat to the West, the country quickly collapsed in the face of invading forces.”

As it soon became clear that WMDs were nowhere to be found, the ostensible mission switched to “spreading democracy” — Saddam was a bad, bad man, and we must kill him.  A bad man he was, and kill him we did, but at what cost?

Madeleine Albright may have thought that killing 500,000 Iraqi children (let alone adults) through sanctions in the 1990s was “worth it” to bend the erstwhile Mesopotamia to our will, but I can’t agree.  I especially can’t agree in regards to the additional 600,000 to 1 million (or more) excess civilian deaths caused by the war following our 2003 invasion.  Proportionally, this is analogous to killing everyone in Texas or California.  If this is what it takes to spread democracy, can anyone honestly claim spreading democracy is a worthy cause?

With the inauguration of President Obama, we were promised a new, less militaristic foreign policy.  Candidate Obama successfully conned millions into accepting him as the “peace candidate” of 2008, and if he was not already an undercover warmonger at the time of his election as I suspect, once in office he quickly proved Acton’s adage about the corruption power brings.  I’m not sure which is worse.

Come December 2011, Obama took the stage at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to declare the war’s end, saying “the final work of leaving Iraq has been done.”  While the specifics claimed in his speech may have been technically correct, the claim that the war was over could not have been farther from the truth:  “How can the war [in Iraq] be over when Americans who just don’t happen to be wearing uniforms are over there by the thousands, and get killed right now, and we’re sending $3.5 billion over there?  That’s not over.  That’s not over by any stretch of the imagination.”

Meanwhile, with this faux ending of the war allowing most Americans to mentally check this war off our lists, the war machine is ramping up again as Washington hawks salivate for a swipe at Iran.  Not only would this be a sad repetition of our past mistakes in Iraq and unquestionably far bloodier and more costly than those pushing for war attest, but it is without doubt not a step toward progress or peace in the Middle East.

Consider the death tolls and destruction in Iraq — and the extensive violence and unrest which continues to be a regular occurrence.  Consider that our involvement in Iraq has actually expanded Iran’s influence there, and that an attack on Iran would likely produce the same effect with other unsavory states in the region.  Consider that, like Iraq, Iran has not actually attacked us, and that the vast majority of its people do not want anyone in their region to have nuclear weapons.  Then consider that it is those people, unable to control their tyrannical government, who are certain to suffer most should we let our itchy trigger finger slip again.

Nine years from now, it would (sadly) not surprise me if the US were still in some way intertwined in Iraqi internal affairs.  But at least let us not also mark an Iraniversary.

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