America was going to war. It didn’t matter if UN weapon inspectors found WMDs, none were found. It didn’t matter if Saddam Hussein had links to Al-Qaeda, there was none. It didn’t matter if the US got a United Nations resolution to support an invasion, they never got one.
George W. Bush was eager to finish what Dick Cheney and his daddy started a dozen years earlier. All they needed was a rationale the people could fall for. It wasn’t long after the events of September 11th 2001 and the invasion of Afghanistan that talk turned to Iraq.
Between 2001 and 2003, Bush and company tried to convince the American people and the rest of the world that going to war with Iraq was a matter of national and international security. The propaganda didn’t convince most of the developed world to join the “coalition of the willing”. Only Britain and a handful of others hopped on board.
On the home front though it was easy. Lying to a frightened populace always gets results. Research by the Center for Public Integrity claims Bush and his cabinet made a total of 935 false statements regarding Iraqi threats.
So ten years ago this week, the world’s only superpower backed by an army of private contractors began what would become a nine year occupational quagmire. The shock and awe term used to describe the beginning of the conflict over the skies of Baghdad can now best be used to sum up the end results.
Before the war began, Bush had said that Iraq’s oil revenue would pay for the cost of the confrontation and reconstruction. Of course that didn’t happen. The cost in terms of dollars was $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans… so far.
Bush decided to put the cost of the war on one of the government’s credit cards. By the time the interest is paid off and the last of the veterans lose their benefits, the cost will be closer to $6 trillion.
1,111,610 Americans served in Iraq with a total of 2,337,197 deployments (that’s a lot of benefits to pay out). Unfortunately 4488 of these service men and women never came back home, not to mention the 3400 private contractors who lost their lives as well.
The number of Iraqis who died as a result of the war and occupation depends on where you get your information. Some estimates say there were 190,000 Iraqi casualties 134,000 of which were civilian. Other estimates have put the number much higher at 600,000.
At the height of the insurgency, more than four million Iraqi civilians were displaced from their home. Since America’s withdrawal more than a million have still not returned home. Only 800 have been allowed sanctuary within the United States, more than a thousand times less than during the war in Vietnam.
The cost of the Iraq war in relation to dollars and lives is a matter of public record. The facts and figures of the past won’t change, but neither will the way politicians manipulate the public for their own gain.
Under the Geneva Conventions, Bush and his administration is guilty of war crimes for invading an unarmed country without provocation. Due to America’s standing in the world, not Bush, nor Cheney or any other chicken hawks responsible for the war will ever stand trial, let alone serve time. The only lesson learnt here is that no president has to fear the ramifications of their actions internationally.
While Bush and his cohorts are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, we mustn’t forget what allowed him to do it. I’m referring of course to the American media.
In a democratic republic, they say there are three levels of government that need to function properly in order to operate, but in truth there is a four, the free press. When the media decides to put profits and ratings ahead of its obligation to the people, democracy can fail.
In the run up to the war the media behaved like the quiet, obedient government news agencies usually found within the despotic regimes. They did not question anything. It’s for this reason that I’m pessimistic that the unfortunate scenario we witnessed firsthand ten years ago won’t be repeated in the future.