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March 27, 2013

After war, Iraq an uncertain ally

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The Daily Star

---- — “Iraqi democracy will succeed — and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran — that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.”

President George W. Bush, Nov. 7, 2003

It is interesting as the world took notice last week of the 10th anniversary of America’s invasion of Iraq that Mr. Bush’s highly questionable statement of a decade ago mentioned the capitals of Syria and Iran.

Those two countries were in the forefront of a meeting Secretary of State John Kerry had with Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday in which the Iraqi prime minister was told in no uncertain terms that he must stop allowing Iran to send aid to Syria’s government through Iraqi airspace.

Whether Maliki will do anything about it is uncertain. After all, if the Syrian rebels overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it’s likely they will install a Sunni government, which could be bad news for Maliki’s Shiite-led administration.

Iraq today, with America’s influence there waning with the withdrawal of our troops, is at best an uncertain ally and a shaky democracy, if indeed it is truly one at all.

So here we are, 10 years after the United States went into Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction that he never actually had, and we ask ourselves, “was it worth it?”

Was it worth the 4,488 American deaths, including 3,532 in combat since March 19, 2003?

Was it worth the thousands of Americans and coalition allies with lost limbs, other serious physical injuries and mental problems?

Was it worth the more than 110,000 civilian deaths and the countless other civilians who were wounded or driven from their homes?

Was it worth the estimated $3 trillion (and rising every day) cost to the American taxpayer?

We ask ourselves, how could we have let all that happen? Was it the hubris of our leaders, who led us to believe that a war would be no big deal?

In November 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld predicted the conflict would last “five days or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last longer.”

Two months later, he estimated the price tag: “something under $50 billion for the cost,” he said.

Three days before the invasion, then-Vice President Dick Cheney said, “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators … I think it will go relatively quickly.”

So much death, so much harm, so much anguish and sorrow for so little gain. Was it worth it?

Of course not.