Legacies of the Iraq War: Lessons for U.S. Policy toward Iran, Syria, Yemen
The Kansas City Star
For most people, today, the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, will pass as just another day – in fact, many are eager to put this disastrous war behind them, as if it never happened. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Once we consider the full impact of the war — on Iraqis, on U.S. troops, on the U.S. economy, on the Iraq government, and on U.S. standing in the world – we have to conclude that too much has been suffered and expended and too little accomplished.
Nine years of the U.S.-led war has left Iraq in shambles. Our actions have left a disastrous legacy for all of the players involved here in the United States and in Iraq.
The costs of trying to use force to achieve political goals has resulted in too many lost and ruined U.S. and Iraqi lives, too many hundreds of billions of tax dollars wasted and decades more of paying to care for wounded U.S. troops.
Rather than making our world more secure, it has done the opposite. Those who blithely call for the use of the ineffective and self-destructive tool of military might in Iran, Syria, Yemen or elsewhere have learned nothing from the Iraq war.
Failing to learn from the war puts us at risk of repeating the same mistakes in the future. This is especially crucial as some urge military action against Iran and as the misuse of “intelligence” once again is used to justify attack.
It is time for each of us to resist the manipulation of those who profit from war. It is time to learn from Iraq, take responsibility for our actions and not repeat our mistakes with new reckless military fiascoes.
To those who still doubt this impact, here are stark facts that illustrate the extent of this disaster:
Impact on Iraqis:
• Conservatively at least 150,000 to 400,000 Iraqis died of violence between 2003 and 2011.
• Close to 3.5 million Iraqis, out of a population of 31.5 million, are displaced internally or in neighboring states (only 1/8 have attempted to return).
• Nearly a quarter of Iraqi children under age five have stunted growth as a result of chronic malnutrition.
• In 2010 53 percent of Iraqis lived in slum conditions.
Impact on U.S. troops:
• Almost 4,500 U.S. troops have been killed and over 22,000 wounded in Iraq.
• 20 percent to 50 percent of all service members deployed to Iraq suffer from PTSD.
• One in three women in the military are sexually assaulted.
• From 2001 to 2009 the military suicide rate increased 150 percent.
Impact on U.S. economy:
• Total 2001-2011 Pentagon allocation for war was $1,208.1 billion.
• Obligated funds for future medical and disability costs of veterans for the next 30 to 40 years will total $600 billion to $1 trillion.
• Total costs of all current U.S. wars between 2001 and 2011 will total $3.2 to $4 trillion.
• The huge investments in the military resulted in a weaker economy and decreased spending on non-military, public infrastructure and in other areas which would have resulted in increased job creation.
Impact on the nation of Iraq:
• Iraq is ninth on the Fund for Peace 2011 Failed State Index.
• Iraq ranks the worst in the Middle East, 1.5, on Transparency International’s corruption scale (0 to 10).
• The United Nations estimated Iraqi unemployment in 2011 to be 28 percent.
Ira Harritt, of Kansas City, is KC Program Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee.