Friday, May 03, 2013

The Iraq War
10 Years Later
A Personal View

Map of Iraq

Well it is 10 years after the disastrous Iraqi war started and the war pernicious and poisonous effects in the world continue.

 First let us go through what the war cost for the United States.

The total cost of the Iraqi war looks like it will be c. 2.2 Trillion dollars. This includes the cost of taking care of disabled veterans etc. Already the direct costs of the Iraqi war exceeded 800 billion dollars.1

That is a staggering amount of money and what made the cost even more serious was that it was almost entirely financed by borrowing.2

The Human cost for the United States has been 4,457 dead servicemen and 1,537 contractors. For a total of 5,994 dead. It should be noted that the number of contractor dead is almost certainly significantly too low. Further 32,100 servicemen were wounded in action and a further 41,769 were injured in accidents or became ill. The number of US citizens injured while working as Contractors is more than 7,000.3

As for Iraq and its economy. It appears that the sanction affected economy of the 1990’s which severely depressed living standards and growth has not been overcome. The economy of Iraq continues to be severely affected by weak growth, poor infrastructure and large numbers of Iraqi leaving permanently to stay abroad. The very poor infrastructure doesn’t help in the promotion of growth. And Iraq remains an economic cripple although with surplus oil revenue that due to incompetence and corruption it seems incapable of investing in infrastructure rebuilding or capital growth.4

Aside from low living standards and a terrible infant mortality rates and low life expectancy Iraq has experienced significant numbers of civilian deaths. At an absolute minimum the number is 134,000. This figure is an absolute minimum it is likely that the true figure is over 200,000.5

Further over 1,5 million Iraqi have left Iraqi and slightly over 1.5 million Iraqi are internally displaced. Many of them living in less than ideal situations.6

So describing the whole thing has a costly mess seems accurate but what were we hearing at the time?

Well the following list of, in retrospect highly idiotic comments should put everyone’s mind at rest that rationality led to the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.

“The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid.” – OMB Director Mitch Daniels, quote in the Washington Post on April 21, 2003.

“Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that’s something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.” – Donald Rumsfeld, January 19, 2003.

“Costs of any [Iraq] intervention would be very small.” – White House economic advisor Glen Hubbard, October 4, 2002.

“Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.” – Ari Fleischer, February 18, 2003.

“We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” – Paul Wolfowitz, March 27, 2003.

“A year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush.” – Richard Perle, September 22, 2003.

“I expect we will get a lot of mitigation [from other countries re: the cost of rebuilding Iraq], but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact.” – Paul Wolfowitz, March 27, 2003.

“Some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark.” – Wolfowitz

“I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down.” – Wolfowitz

“Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way. . . . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein, and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.” – Dick Cheney, when asked if the American public is ready for a long, bloody battle, March 16, 2003
“I don’t think it would be that tough a fight.” – Cheney.

“There are other differences that suggest that peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests.” – Wolfowitz, February 27, 2003

“Bring ‘em on. We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.” – President Bush, when asked if the insurgency and resulting U.S. casualties might cause him to ask for more help from U.S. allies, July 2, 2003.7

Ah yes hindsight can be a complete bitch /  bastard.

And for the ultimate in brain eating dumbness, how about this solipsist thought.

But first a little context The below comment was made to the journalist Ron Suskind in 2002; the White House official in question was concerned that Suskind was welded to and trapped “in what we call the reality-based community,” which defined by the same official has people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.”8

The Official then went on to say:
That’s not the way the world really works anymore…We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.9
What this piece of idiocy maintained was that reality was subject to human will and that what was really going on out there was meaningless because “we” could bend reality to our will. Reality was what we said it was. Thus facts, objectivity and what is out there could be safely ignored because we had the will and power to shape reality to such an extent that we could ignore all that.

But of course this was all of a piece with the quotes given above. So many officials in the White House “knew” what was real and “knew” they could craft “reality” and it would be what they wished it would be. So they “knew” all those people urging caution and careful planning were wrong and that those who predicted difficulties were also wrong. They “knew” it would be easy, cheap, that Americans would be greeted as liberators and that a new pro-American Iraq would be created and America made dominant in the Middle East. They “knew” this to be true.

The result was that they crafted intelligence not based on careful analysis and careful study to determine what the situation actually was but on what they wished the intelligence to show and it was crafted to indicate what they “knew” to be true because they wished it to be so.10

The mendacious and fraudulent campaign to justify the invasion of Iraq is now abundantly clear and its corrosive effects on the American body politic also clear. Thus we got no WMD’s (Weapons of mass destruction.), except the decaying and decrepit remnants of Sadaam’s efforts in the 1980’s, when Washington did not perceive Sadaam has a threat. And we also found out how totally bogus was the link to Al Qaeda and 9/11. 11  It was all wish fulfillment and fantasy. Shortly after 9/11 the administration in Washington was gunning for Sadaam and facts be damned. Just how seriously the Bush administration took its war on terror is revealed by the fact that it cut taxes while embarking on two very expensive ground wars.

Of course has indicated by the material at the beginning of this posting, reality bites you in the ass regardless of what you may want. The war proved to be horribly expensive, the Iraqi people while glad to be rid of Sadaam were and are not terribly happy to have the Americans around. Sectarian violence continues to rip across Iraq. If anything American influence in the region has been lost. All the good will generated worldwide by the 9/11 atrocity has been more than used up. Iraq is still a basket case.

In fact the war revealed that American power had limits. After all it cost almost 800 billion dollars directly and well over a trillion dollars if you include indirect costs to “defeat”, (Bring under control might be a better word.) a third rate insurrection which had the support of only a fraction of the Iraqi people. And through it all this massive profligate expense sorely stretched the American economy.

Of course the justification for the invasion, to get rid of the vile Sadaam is now trotted out. Aside from the long list of tyrannies the USA has not had problems with; Bush Jr. while complaining about Sadaam’s brutal policies, was and is chummy with Saudi princes and apparently has no particular problems with it seems the theocratic, authoritarian Saudi Arabia. Sadaam’s well documented abuses served has a justification for invasion among several people including the late Christopher Hitchens whose grotesque support for regime change and whose enthusiasm for war to erase tyranny made him a useful idiot and an excellent example of a fellow travelling intellectual, so I will go into him a bit more. Hitchens swallowed much of the fake justification and did not seem to or, want to, notice that getting rid of Sadaam for his human rights violations was never the real reason for the invasion. Hitchens like so many others pooh poohed the naysayers and those suggesting caution. His enthusiasm for the Bush administration’s policies of regime change was childish and silly, because he like them just “knew” that the nay sayers were wrong. I note that Hitchens was hysterically calling for the impeachment of Clinton and yet was almost entirely silent on the lies used by the Bush administration to justify invading Iraq and certainly never came close to calling for Bush’s impeachment.12

Reality reared its ugly head. The result was a diminution of American influence and power and a sickly Iraq. America showed that economically speaking even a prolonged third rate insurgency was a heavy burden on the US economy that was close to unbearable. Also reality cannot be what you wish / want it to be. It just is and ignoring that is just stupid. Regime change seems to open a can of worms and castles in the air are castles in the air.

In the end reality did indeed hit back, but then it usually does against fools who think it doesn’t matter.  

1. See Watson Institute, Costs of War Here and Here. See also Crawford Neta C., U.S. Costs of Wars Through 2013: $3.1 Trillion and Counting, Watson Institute & Boston University, 2013, pp. 2, 5, 7, 9.

2. IBID.

3. Lutz, Catherine, US and Coalition Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, Watson Institute, 2011, pp. 1, 6.

4. See Yousif, Bassam, The Economy of Iraq Since 2003: A Follow-up, Watson, Institute, & Indiana University, 2012.

5. Crawford Neta C., Civilian Death and Injury in the Iraq War, 2003-2013, Watson Institute & Boston University,  2013, p. 1.

6. Dewachi, Omar, Insecurity, Displacement and Public Health Impacts of the American Invasion of Iraq, Watson Institute, 2011.

7. Quoted by The Agitator Here.

8. Quoted in Spinney, Chuck, Iraq Invasion Anniversary: Inside The Decider’s Head, Time, March 22, 2013 Here.

9. IBID.

10. See documents at National Security Archive Here.

11. Bakos, Nada, I Tried to Make the Intelligence Behind the Iraq War Less Bogus, Wired, March 18, 2013 Here

12. See Hitchen’s Watch website for an incineration of Hitchen’s foolishness.  Here.

Pierre Cloutier

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