If the media giants, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Newsweek and numerous others, had done more critical analysis, or if the citizens of the U.S. had been discerning enough to recognize the misinformation for what it was, perhaps the war in Iraq could have been avoided. Rick Mercier, then a columnist for The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), issued a rare mea culpa on March 28, 2004, after the Iraq War was under way:
Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn't bring ourselves to hold the administration's feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered. Maybe we'll do a better job next war.
The total financial cost of the Iraq War is estimated by some to eventually balloon to $4.8 trillion. The human cost? More than 4,000 Americans killed and approximately 32,000 wounded. While we may never know the full extent of Iraqi civilian casualties, no matter who's doing the counting, the toll is in the hundreds of thousands. Of course, these statistics don't include the loss of life nor the financial cost of the conflict in Afghanistan, a war that some believe was justified since that nation harbored the Al Qaeda militants believed responsible for the 9/11 attacks. One thing perhaps on which we can all agree: the Middle East is in much greater turmoil now than it was before we began our ill-advised misadventure(s).
"The first casualty when war comes is truth." ~Hiram Johnson
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