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March 20, 2013 01:06 PM UTC

Looking back, ten years since Iraq War began.

  • 5 Comments
  • by: khmeck
As we look back at 10 years ago today, March 20th 2003, when American boots first stepped onto Iraqi soil, it's worth sounding a note too rarely heard in American political discourse: grief and gloom. 

A lot of column inches have already been spent today to try to provide scale for the cost in dollars and lives of this war. Most frequently cited is a costs of war retrospective project by several Brown University and professors and researchers from a slate of top universities. That study lists $3.9 trillion in taxpayer costs, counting future veteran's benefits and interest. (The project website is here, and I highly recommend it.) 

Big numbers are hard to understand. Maybe the best way to look at it is to figure that $3.9 trillion is about $12,000 per American. Maybe that's not so much.Then again, maybe it was enough we could have been oil independent, and solved climate change, and fixed our schools, all at once. But to me, it seems that the scale of the loss far outstrips our capacity to improve ourselves; that it is scarcely conceivable that we could learn enough from this outcome, that we could ever be sufficiently chastened, to ever make our lesson worth the cost.

The scale seems even bigger, looking at the human costs. Whether it's the number of US soldiers killed (4,487) and wounded (32,226), or estimates of the number of military suicides we can look forward to, it's hard to feel like it's even possible to feel something appropriate to the scale of loss. Why were we so credulous? Why did we allow so many give their last full measure of devotion to a war started on a lie?

Total body counts of civilian deaths vary (the absolute floor is 176000 civilians violently killed, and probably something like another 100,000 deaths from the destruction of the healthcare system and clean water infrastructure and so on, although estimates vary widely). Looking at these numbers, and thinking back about the coverage of the war, it's even more obvious. For the civilian dead, the last full measure was not a last measure of devotion but a measure of their powerlessness, and of the brutal callousness of the powerful toward their situation. 

 
We didn't show appropriate concern for the people we invaded. We were unplanned and unready, and we made basic blunders. We brought too few troops by 1/2, and sending the Iraqi military home with their guns but without pay. We committed atrocities, including but not limited to those at Abu Graib, and so we permanently lost our chance at having earned goodwill or trust. And the human costs of this mistake–mostly the civilian dead in Iraq–never factored so very highly into the calculus that brought us to change course, which was really about US bodies coming home, and about an unraveling justification for the war. The civilians are, and remain, an afterthought. This is the world we have made, where the powerful destroy innocents through carelessness, callousness, and abuse.

And we are mostly unrepentant. There has been no, and will not be any, comeuppance for our leaders. The idiots who are responsible for this are largely convinced the mistakes were few, and the prices justified, and they will likely remain confident they steered history well, and smug in their feelings of moral strength. Among the few prince idiots who lied and led the world to war, all are removed from any danger of reprisal, almost all have positions of real influence and prestige, and many still exercise considerable power. War profiteering, in this country of ours, is profitable, and you don't even have to be ashamed of yourself. 

What's worst of all, what's most depressing of all, is that it's not really over. Look at this one snippet from a soldier writing in the NYTimes today:
 

Nobody’s ever convinced me the war’s over. Nobody. As one famous American general put it, “We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.” That’s pretty much the way I see it.
 
Every generation has its war. This one’s no different.
 
Nor will it be for the next.

Comments

5 thoughts on “Looking back, ten years since Iraq War began.

  1. khmeck wrote:

    The idiots who are responsible for this are largely convinced the mistakes were few, and the prices justified, and they will likely remain confident they steered history well, and smug in their feelings of moral strength. Among the few prince idiots who lied and led the world to war, all are removed from any danger of reprisal, almost all have positions of real influence and prestige, and many still exercise considerable power.

    I see some similarities between Paul Wolfwitz and the late Robert S. McNamera. Both went on to  of the World Bank, after their tenure.  Will Wolfowitz, eventually  the courage to write the equivelent of McNamera's In Retrospect, admitting how badly he screwed up the Iraq war, and eventually be regarded as a tragic figure, rather than just a hack?   I don't the answer.

    1. Will Wolfowitz, eventually  the courage to write the equivelent of McNamera's In Retrospect, admitting how badly he screwed up the Iraq war,…

       

      Not bloody well likely.

       

  2. That said:

    I doubt we'll ever get an explanation of  April Glaspie's recall and how it related to ARAMACO, Exxon-Mobil, BP, Conoco-Phillips, etc.

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