Today, as that country plunges headlong into civil war, our leaders continue to fabricate claims of improvements, make false promises of progress and lie outright about our prospects. Their missteps have cost thousands of American lives along with the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians.
Because of the Iraq war, America is less safe than before September 11, 2001, more reviled throughout the world as an arrogant bully that ignores its own self-professed concern for human rights or integrity, and that has become a laughing stock among the intelligence agencies of other nations.
While the Bush administration claims progress, insurgent attacks are on the rise and Iraqis, in general, are worse off then they were before the U.S. invaded three years ago.
"This winter is the first time I am generally discouraged about economic trends in Iraq," Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at Brookings, told Lisa Zagalori of McClatchy Newspapers this week. "While there is some good news, for the first time there is no more good news than bad news," he added.
The U.S. has spent $21 billion to supposedly rebuild Iraq and nobody is really sure where the money went or what such spending has accomplished, if any.
After nearly three years, those on the ground in Iraq say that paper is still blank.
Stuart Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, says the effort to rebuild Iraq is, by and large, a failure.
"The lethal environment in Iraq continues to pose extraordinary challenges to reconstruction contractors," Bowen admits. And that "lethal environment" is getting worse, not better.
"For the last 18 months, we've been in a low-grade civil war," says former Associated Press and New York Times reporter Christopher Albritton, now blogging from Iraq. "The Askariya bombing kicked us up to 'medium-grade,' I guess you might call it. Both Sunnis and Shi'a I've spoken with are waiting and preparing for it, and that very preparation might make for a self-fulfilling prophecy. For too many Iraqis, it's only a matter of time."
Some American commanders on the ground saw the trouble coming but their concerns were ignored at the Pentagon where the battle plan called for dealing with the meaningless resistance from Saddam Hussein's defunct Republican Guard while ignoring the more real threat of the Fedayeen, the grassroots militant group that continues to fight and disrupt today.
"But while many officers in the field assessed the Fedayeen as a dogged foe, Gen. Tommy Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saw them as little more than speed bumps on the way to Baghdad," they add.
A Mossad officer tells me the U.S. intelligence agencies never understood Saddam Hussein or the Middle East and the CIA is a "laughing stock" among other world spy organizations.