The Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter may have said it best:
A war that may yet go down in history as America’s single greatest foreign policy blunder reached a milestone Tuesday night with five decisive words from President Barack Obama: “Operation Iraqi Freedom is over.”
And as I wrote in a previous post, the president was exceedingly gracious in his remarks about the end of a war he, and many Americans like myself, opposed from the outset (my first ever guest column for the Miami Herald was on that subject, back in April 2003.) Obama deserves credit for keeping his campaign promise to end the war in responsible fashion (though Iraq hasn’t exactly held up its end of the bargain by forming a stable government) and he was right to focus his speech Tuesday night on honoring the dead and wounded in the war, rather than on recriminations against the men who took us there. (The neocons tried in vain to recast George Bush as the Great Hero of the Tigris on Tuesday. Too bad only Fox News viewers will believe them.)
But there is more to the story. And it’s not good news.
First, the numbers, starting with the casualties: Defense Secretary Robert Gates spelled those out in emotional fashion Tuesday, in numbers somewhat higher than my usual source, icasualties.org (Gates should know, after all.)
According to Gates, in the 7 years and five months we’ve been involved in major combat in Iraq, 4,427 American service members have been killed, 3,502 of them killed in action; and 34,265 have been wounded.
Coalition deaths in the war include 179 Britons and 139 troops from other countries.
There have also been an estimated 467 private contractors killed in Iraq.
There’s no definitive answer on how many Iraqis have died in the war, but the group Iraq Body Count has documented 106,466 Iraqi civilian deaths from post-war violence in that country. There was a study back in 2006 that said some 600,000 Iraqis were killed in the war, but that study was and is in dispute.
Along with the combat deaths, 141 journalists have been killed in Iraq, including 94 who were murdered.
More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq, a fraction of the the more than 205 million U.S. population aged 15-64.
It’s estimated that 150,000 troops have suffered some level of traumatic brain injury due to combat. And the number could be 3 times that high.
One combat veteran from the wars we fought in the Bush years commits suicide every 36 hours.
And while the lives lost are the true treasure that cannot be regained, the financial cost of invading Iraq has already exceeded $744.5 billion, according to the National Priorities Project. (Together, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost just over $1 trillion.)
As for how we got into Iraq. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post said in his book “Plan of Attack” that the George W. Bush administration began planning to invade iraq 3 months after 9/11. Paul O’Neill, Bush’s first treasury secretary, said Bush, Dick Cheney and Cheney’s neocon cabal starting mapping out an invasion of Iraq immediately upon taking office in 2001.
The Bush administration used up to 27 rationales for the invasion of Iraq, including implying that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, that he had amassed nuclear weapons to use against the U.S., that he was planning another 9/11 style attack, that he was involved with al-Qaida, and that he was gaming the oil market.
There are lots more numbers to be found here, including lost of statistics on waste and fraud in Iraqi contracting. Read it and weep.
Related: Tony Blair seeks ‘redemption‘ for going along with Bush’s war.