After over eight years in Iraq, the war is over for America and our troops are home in time for the holidays. Although much has been said about this milestone, we have yet to be completely honest about the reasons for and consequence of America’s involvement in Iraq. We owe it to ourselves and to the Iraqi people to reflect on what this war has and has not accomplished. More importantly, with increasing talk of war with Iran, it is incumbent upon us to remember the consequences of such a project.
At a ceremony held in Baghdad to mark the formal end of the war, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed the remaining 4,000 American troops with a message aimed at justifying our actions in the land between two rivers. “Your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people begin a new chapter in history free from tyranny and full of hope for prosperity and peace particularly for this country’s future generations.” But at such a high cost, was it all worth it?
At this point, it is no secret that the war was avoidable and unnecessary. It is common knowledge that the Bush Administration knowingly used false reports about Saddam Hussein’s possession and production of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to publicly justify its invasion of Iraq.
It is also undisputed that, after the invasion, no WMDs were ever found in Iraq. In the service of this fool’s errand, over 4,500 American service members lost their lives, with over 30,000 injured. At a time when Americans are struggling financially, approximately $1 trillion dollars were wasted on funding this war.
The damage to Iraq and its people has been even greater. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed. Millions have been injured or maimed for life. In Falluja, there has been a marked rise in severe birth defects, which many believe has been caused by hazardous weapons material discarded by invading troops. Towns, cities, and families have been destroyed. The rise in sectarianism has been exponential. Millions of Iraqi civilians have been displaced to neighboring Syria and Jordan. Many Iraqi women have been forced into prostitution and other sexually related industries.
Though the war in Iraq was branded as part of the larger “War on Terror,” it transformed the country into a hub for al-Qaeda-style attacks, which had not existed prior to the U.S. invasion. As a fitting reminder of this legacy, Baghdad was struck with blasts killing over 60 people just as the last American troops exited the country.
While America may have successfully removed a dictator, it caused years of misery, instability and horror for people throughout Iraq. The fear Saddam imposed pales in comparison to the pervasive instability and violence that now dominate the country.
Before we can move forward and learn from our mistakes, we must be honest about these facts. America’s war with Iraq was a failure from the beginning. As the drumbeats of war with Iran grow louder, let us not forget this. We owe it to ourselves, to the Iraqis, and to all of humanity.
*Ehab Zahriyeh is an independent multi-media journalist who recently reported in Egypt covering the revolution for Press TV. He has also produced work from Palestine/Israel including the Gaza Strip, Jordan, and Morocco. He began his career in journalism covering local news at NY1 News as a video journalist where he worked for two years. He has also been published in CNN.com, Elan The Magazine and Silent Heroes.