I am very happy that Iraq was able to hold elections and I hope that this will lead to the formation of a stable government that can restore peace and freedom (and electricity and water and food and medicine) and all those other good things for the Iraqi people.
But does this mean now that it was all worth it? No, it does not.
Even if we were to pull all of our troops out of Iraq tomorrow, which we are not, it would still mean that this little adventure cost the lives of nearly 1,500 U.S. troops and cost taxpayers more than $300 billion. If our nation’s security had been at stake, then there would have been no question of its worth and no price would have been too much. But that was never the case as I have said from the beginning. Even before the start of the war, most of the world agreed that Saddam Hussein did not pose an imminent or dire threat even to his own neighbors. Only in the fevered mind of George W. Bush and Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice did Hussein rise above the level of a regional thug.
Now that we know without a doubt that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction, no nuclear program, no ties to al-Quaeda and no connection to 9/11, the Bush administration has been left defending the pre-emptive military invasion on strictly humanitarian grounds. We have freed the Iraqi people from a horrible dictator and a murderous regime, they say. Sure, that’s wonderful and all, but at this point we are just making lemonade out of a bucket full of lemons.
What makes the Iraqi people so special anyway? Why are we sacrificing the lives of hundreds of our soldiers and putting our nation into debt for the foreseeable future just for their sake? What about the people of North Korea, or Iran, or Syria, or Yemen, or Libya or the dozens of other nations burdened with totalitarian regimes? Are we willing to turn around now and expend the military resources and tax dollars necessary to free them as well? At least if we had put our resources into freeing the people of North Korea we would have had the added bonus of actually eliminating a real nuclear threat, but apparently the North Korean people’s freedom isn’t deemed as important for some reason as the Iraqi people’s freedom.
Bush claims that Iraq will serve as a shining example of democracy in the Middle East and help transform the entire region. Kind of like the “domino effect” that never came about when we pulled out of Vietnam. But if spreading democracy were really so simple why didn’t we just approach our friends the Saudis and get them to adopt a democratic form of government? Couldn’t they have served as the example for the Middle East and wouldn’t that have been a lot less costly? But we are not even pressing them to change their form of government. Why not?
It is clear that the American people would never have signed off on this deal if they had known the truth from the beginning. Our military has done an incredible job under very trying circumstances over in Iraq, but they should never have been put in that situation in the first place. Our military's role is to protect the United States and its interests, not to serve as a giant aid organization to promote the president's geopolitical vision. Putting Saddam Hussein behind bars was not worth the lives of 1,500 U.S. servicemen and $300 billion. I only hope that those costs don’t escalate further before we can finally bring the rest of our troops home.