In March of 2003, the United States led an “allied” group of states into conflict with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, under the premise that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were located there, and could be used against the U.S. Thus, it was a pre-emptive strike against a country that allegedly could have attacked the U.S. and caused casualties on the American population. In December of 2011, the last American military personnel were withdrawn, marking the end of the war. The question remains however; was it truly worth it?
To begin any sort of answer, the end results must first be discussed. The most relevant fact is the military cost — $823 billion dollars. That is approximately 1/17th of total U.S. debt, which is significant given the fact that currently, every penny counts. Add together billions in U.S. aid to Iraq, and stolen or squandered (unused Olympic-sized pools at police stations anyone?) funding money, and the number fairly rounded to $1 trillion.
More important than money of course are the tragic American Iraqi lives lost or permanently affected by the war. Some 4,487 American lives were lost, and over 32 thousand were wounded. The number of those that will suffer from mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress syndrome are unknown, and some estimates put the number in hundreds of thousands, possibly half a million.
Operation Iraqi Freedom of course, can put no price on saving the lives of the Iraqi people who lived under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Since his fall however, a few facts have become undeniable.
1. Dictator or not, Saddam prevented the Iraqi people from slaughtering one another. And while his actions against Kurds can undeniably be referred to as atrocities , the ongoing bloodbath in post-Saddam Iraq has the country teetering on civil war.
2. When the Sunnis and Shi’ites are not killing one another, the Christian minority faces an extensive campaign to rid Iraq of their existence. Churches are being shot up during mass. There are reasons why nearly all Iraqi minorities (subtract Kurds) supported Saddam before and during the conflict.
3. Dictatorship or not, it seems that Iraq (like many other Arab countries) is less functional, safe and certainly less prosperous under “democratic” rule. The Western states need to realize that democracy is not [yet] compatible with every nation, and that “exported democracy” can actually destroy countries that do not have an element of embedded liberalism first. Change the mentality first, then change the system.
Let’s not forget the entire purpose of the war was to disarm Iraq from its “weapons of mass destruction” and prevent a possible 9/11-like attack on the U.S. and its citizens. Today however, no one can deny that no WMD were in fact found. In fact, the war in Iraq could have only created more enemies and has helped aid in the mobilization against American “imperialism.”
What does all this mean? It means that Operation Iraqi Freedom did not free very many people and in fact put most in danger. It also means that countless dollars were squandered when they could have been used domestically (or not used at all) to help out the American people and the future of the country. Most tragically, and most difficult to admit, is that all those American (and non-American) casualties and injuries were certainly not worth it.
A war waged to save American lives in the long run has ultimately cost many lives and has added to the destabilization of the American economy and probably society.