Nine years later, the United States military is out of Iraq. At last. A great many civilians, contractors and paid, highly armed security people remain, so the problems are far from over. What is over is young men and women, many of them under 25, facing grave and random danger from roadside bombs, suicide attacks and, down the road, potential attack by Iran.
Over four thousand American soldiers died in this long war. It is estimated that more than 150,000 Iraqis were killed. More than 32 thousand Americans were injured, many will never walk again or have to make it through life with only one arm and one leg. Some very few lived with no arms and no legs left. In past wars, no would have survived such catastrophic battlefield injuries, but the military has gotten much better at treating the wounded and getting them to hospitals more quickly were they can be saved and patched back together.
In dollars, the cost of the war is estimated to have been about 800,000,000,000.00 (that 800 billion). A massive amount of that money was just wasted. The reasons it was thrown away like so much garbage have to do with the way governments do things and the way the Bush administration ordered things done in Iraq. Everything was hurry, hurry and push, push. The reconstruction effort was supposed to go through the Iraqi people, but oftentimes there wasnít anyone to work with or, if there was someone, they couldnít get others in Iraq to cooperate. One ridiculous measure was having all of the Americans, civilian and military, rotate in and out after a year so that no one got to know their job well enough and, when they finally got into a groove, it was time to leave. (These conclusions are based on my reading on this subject. This war has been going on so long that even some of the books about what a disaster it has been seem old, like this one, which came out in 2006.
America deserves a full accounting of what was done in Iraq, what was accomplished and some rough idea of how many billions were wasted. We need, in short, a truth and reconciliation commission like the one they had in South Africa at the end of apartheid. We need a full explanation for why we went to war and we need to understand what we can do so see that we donít go into such expensive, wasteful situations in the future.
This would in no way dishonor the service of Americans in Iraq. Instead, it would bring more honor by forcing us to come to terms with this long and costly involvement. No one is going to suggest going into such a difficult situation in the near future, but, as time passes, so does the memory of this experience. Only by having a full, complete and unbiased record will future leaders, and citizens, be able to have any chance of avoiding the same mistakes.
Doug Terry, 12.16.11