|No reason to celebrate|
On the evening of Aug. 31, just hours short of his self-imposed deadline, U.S. President Barack Obama took to the airwaves and announced that he had kept his 2008 election promise: American combat operations in Iraq had come to an end.
However, even the most ardent of Obama’s partisan Democrat supporters could not muster much of a cheer at hearing the news.
Given that about 50,000 U.S. troops — including about 4,500 Special Forces troops and overwhelming tactical air assets — will remain in Iraq for at least another year, one can hardly claim that U.S. military involvement has concluded. When you add to that total the tens of thousands of foreign, private, security contractors who still ply their trade in Iraq, even the self-delusional would be hard pressed to argue that the American occupation has ended.
However, for those who will themselves into believing that the ordeal is over, there is still no denying that the entire war was a fiasco. The numbers do not lie.
Between March 20, 2003, when the first aerial bombardment began in Baghdad, and May 1 of that year, when former president George Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and proclaimed an end to all major combat operations in Iraq, 139 American soldiers had lost their lives in the so-called combat phase.
During the Americans’ post seven-year rebuilding phase, the U.S. troop death toll climbed to 4,427 with another 34,265 wounded and injured in Iraq.
The price tag for the Americans’ involvement in Iraq has been pegged at over $750 billion dollars. That figure, of course, does not include the destruction of Iraqi buildings and infrastructure.
While Saddam Hussein’s army collapsed like a cheap suitcase, the post-war anarchy, the insurgency against U.S. troops and the widespread inter-factional fighting have taken a frightful toll on the Iraqi people. Accurate data concerning civilian deaths remains difficult to ascertain but the most recent and most reliable UN statistics estimate that more than one million Iraqis have been killed and another three million wounded since the 2003 invasion.
The premise used by George Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair to launch their attack against Saddam was that the Iraqi dictator possessed "weapons of mass destruction" and was therefore a "clear and present danger" to the free world. Of those alleged weapons exactly zero were discovered after the allies captured Saddam’s empty arsenal.
Given that Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens faces possible jail time for allegedly lying to the U.S. Congress about his steroid use — which at worst might have altered the scores in a few baseball games — one can only wonder why Bush and Blair are not held to the same degree of liability for the lies they told, which have so negatively impacted the lives of so many. But I digress.
Had the allied intervention deposed Saddam and in his stead created a stable, prosperous, democratic Iraq, one could have argued that Bush and Blair had to break a few eggs to make a delicious omelette. But all they were able to whip up were broken shells and a big sticky mess.
In his announcement last week, Obama proclaimed to the American public that the Iraqi security forces are now responsible to keep the peace in their own country.
Again, for those who closely follow such things, it is readily apparent that while U.S. casualties have diminished in recent months, the inter-factional violence in Iraq has never been more intense. There is no peace to keep.
More importantly, since their elections in March, the Iraqis have failed to form a functioning government. The two major Arab factions, the primarily Sunni secular followers of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the Shiite fundamentalists who subscribe to the leadership of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, each claim to have won at the ballot box. And both refuse to relent power to their rival without a fight.
The northern, autonomous Kurdish regions of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimaniya are de facto independent entities completely removed from any central Baghdad authority. However, this does not preclude the two primary Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, from battling each other along with the Turkmen, Yezidi and Arab factions for control of the oil riches of Kirkuk.
When the Americans negotiated the so-called "peace with honour" conclusion to their participation in Vietnam, they could rightfully claim that they had not "lost" the war. The South, from which they repatriated their troops home in 1973, had been left with a functioning government and a standing army to patrol its open borders. It was not until two years later that North Vietnam successfully toppled the regime in Saigon and re-unified the two republics.
The same cannot be said for the situation from which the Americans are departing Iraq. In promoting his just-released memoirs, Blair told reporters that while he has shed a tear over the suffering caused by the decision to invade Iraq he still has "no regrets."And — obviously — no conscience.