Americans gaze at Iraq today and wonder why it is that nearly 4,500
American troops had to die with another 32,226 wounded, many permanently with
loss of arms, legs, and minds for the Iraq as it exists today.
There are, of course, other costs. Wars do not come cheap, even debacles like this one. The Iraq war cost the U.S. treasury over one trillion dollars all of it borrowed from China, Russia, and other countries. Dead Iraqi civilians number between 125,000 to over a million. No one really knows, not even the Iraqi government. That, in itself, is a real tragedy. There are over two million displaced Iraqi refugees. The Iraqi economy and infrastructure was totally destroyed and what there is of a helpless Iraqi government and security forces are allied with Iran, not exactly a friend of ours.
From beginning to end, from trumped up charges against Iraq to begin the war to its ignominious end, leaving with our tail between our legs, the war in Iraq represents one of worst debacles in American history. We lost the war, badly. Iraq is now aligned with our bitter foe, Iran. Every one of our objectives for going to war, not the phony ones given to the American public and our Congress -- the real ones -- went unmet. In addition, due to our illegal invasion of Iraq our country essentially became an aggressor nation and a pariah in the world community. This must never, ever, happen again.
We now face Iraq today, and matters could not be worse. Anna Mulrine of the Christian Science Monitor reports "Violence in Iraq from July to October hit its highest level in two years, a discouraging sign one year after the last US military vehicles exited the country and prompts questions about whether the situation on the ground in Iraq jeopardizes America's national security interests." Deaths and injuries to civilians are rising. The government of Nouri al-Maliki, which the U.S. helped to install, is in turmoil.
"The levels of violence there are still extremely high -- and lethal," says Nora Bensahel, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), who notes that more people are dying in Iraq today than in Afghanistan, where America's war is ongoing.
Ostensibly, Bensahel concludes, "It's clear that the [Iraqi] security forces [are] strong enough to be able to hold together and maintain certain levels of capabilities." Serious questions can be asked of that assessment to the extent Bensahel may be deluding herself. That would appear to be so. From July to October 2012, 854 civilians were killed and 1,640 were wounded. Is that success?
Of course, the Pentagon will never admit to an American defeat even in the face of total reality. Subsequently, Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman chimes in with this cherished thought. "The Iraqi security forces are continuing to demonstrate themselves to be very capable in handling their country's security "" He then adds demurely, "Obviously, today we no longer have a real military footprint inside the country that would make us an authority on the actual security situation there." In other words, to the casual observer, Cmdr. Speaks has no idea what he is talking about. The same casual observer is noting results, or lack thereof in terms of national interest, not meaningless rhetoric.
Tongue in cheek Lt. Col. Mark Cheadle who was in Baghdad for four months after the official end of the war offers this tidbit, which is a bit closer to the truth of the matter. "I would have to say things have gone as expected. I wouldn't say their progress is worse than expected."
Still, "it's not what we would necessarily consider a success from a US or traditional Western point of view," adds Cheadle, who served as a strategic analyst and adviser for Iraqi key leader engagements. Now that, friends, is honesty, rarely seen these days.
Mulrine also states, "But there is also a sense throughout the country that a "Damocles sword' hangs over Iraq in the form of the Syrian conflict to the west and disputes over oil wealth to the north." Michael Rubin adds, "There's a real fear that the Syrian civil war is going to blow back into Iraq, and people worry about all of these unresolved issues with the Kurds."
Unfortunately, to make matters worse as if that were possible, that threat is very real and very disquieting. Semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan and the central Iraqi government are on a collision course as the Kurds increasingly side with the Syrian opposition and Baghdad stands by the Assad regime.
Correspondent Mohammed A. Salih explains it in this way. "The semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq and the federal government in Baghdad have not seen eye to eye for years, and the gap between the two is now widening, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. That's been put in stark relief by the ongoing civil war in Syria, which has shifted the fortunes of Iraq's Kurds. A decade ago, Iraq was a Sunni Arab-dominated dictatorship that shared many problems with the Sunni Turks to the north. Both countries had restive ethnic-Kurdish separatist movements and uneasy relations with their Shiite and Persian neighbor, Iran. Today, Iraq has a Shiite-dominated government that is close to Tehran, which is supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria's civil war. Turkey, still eager to prevent Kurdish separatist sentiments within its borders, now sees the Iraqi Kurds as a potential ally in opposition to the interests of Iran, Baghdad and Damascus."
Iraq is lost to us. There is not even the remotest possibility that Baghdad will become a U.S. ally, although that was the objective of those who initiated the invasion of that country. Far worse Iraq is also lost to the community of nations. That the sectarian tensions between the Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurds will be ameliorated any time soon is also impossible. If it ever does happen, it will not be during my lifetime.
What does that teach us as Americans? It teaches us this. If we ever go to war again, we better know what we are doing, no guessing. Also, we must know of our own limitations and the full capability of the enemy, not just what we think of our own superiority emboldened by cheers for the vaunted U.S. soldier during American games and parades. If we do not do that, too many of our "hero" troops will get dead in an operation labeled mission failure. Want proof of that reasoning, look at Iraq today. Blame must be shared equally between the Bush administration that started this war on false premises and lying to the American people and Congress. This is an American debacle and there is plenty of blame to go around.
There are lessons to be learned from abject failure. We learn them or our civilization as we know it will die.