Worldview: Casualties of war
Saddam Hussein is gone, but the human and financial costs have been huge and the U.S. reputation has been shaken. Can Iraq yet move forward?
Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Opinion Columnist
POSTED: Sunday, March 17, 2013, 3:01 Am
Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, it's clear who lost the war that followed. But it may be years before we know if anyone won.
Iraqis were freed from Hussein, but a botched American occupation led to a civil war that killed more than 100,000 civilians and forced millions to flee the country. Despite elections, Iraq still has a government that arrests and tortures political opponents and runs a secret police state.
A decade later, it's painful to recall the certainty of many top U.S. occupation officials that they could remake the country. This attitude was most prevalent among those with no Mideast experience, who would accuse anyone who tried to contradict them of "ignoring the good news."
President George W. Bush and several senior officials believed Hussein's fall would trigger the rise of friendly democracies in Iraq and throughout the region. "The Bush Doctrine could help undo dictatorships not only in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, but also in . . . China and Saudi Arabia," wrote William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, the favored journal of Bush administration officials. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the intellectual architect of the war, told me in a November 2002 interview that postwar Iraq would resemble post-World War II France.
Joint U.S.-Iraqi programs that might have helped endangered Iraqi democrats expand their reach are faltering, as America tries to put the Iraq war behind it. The Obama administration blew the chance to leave a follow-on troop presence in Iraq that would have facilitated these programs and maintained some U.S. influence in Baghdad.
Yet Iraq still has the opportunity to move forward - largely because of oil.
But this wealth at least gives Iraqis, a talented people whose educational attainment used to be high, the chance to rebuild their shattered state. Whether they can finally emerge from the culture of dictatorship remains uncertain.
A small victory, but hardly recompense for American losses.
A decade after the invasion, we are still toting up the staggering costs of this war.