Iraq: What was gained, what was lost

President Obama declared an end to the war in Iraq and welcomed home soldiers at Fort Bragg.

The last U.S. convoy rolled out of Iraq this week, said Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times, and though the battle-weary troops were certainly glad to be heading home, “no one even tried to use the word ‘victory.’” Welcoming home soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C., President Obama used the hedged term “a moment of success,” and congratulated them on leaving behind an Iraq “that is self-governing, that is inclusive, and that has enormous potential.” But after nine bloody years of war, some 4,500 U.S. troops dead, more than 33,000 wounded and maimed, and nearly $1 trillion spent, many Americans question whether our achievements in Iraq were worth the staggering cost. What did we really buy with all that blood and treasure? said Tony Karon in Time​.com. No sooner had the last U.S. troops left Iraq than Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of Iraq’s Sunni vice president because of an alleged bomb plot, and sought to fire the Sunni deputy prime minister. Maliki may well be morphing into just another repressive, sectarian dictator—Saddam lite—and the new Iraq we sacrificed so much to create faces a “dark, divided future.”

Regardless of what happens now in Iraq, said Gary Kamiya in, this war was one of the biggest mistakes in U.S. history. It was “launched under false pretenses” by the Bush administration, which exploited the nation’s post-9/11 fears and manufactured evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Between 150,000 and 400,000 Iraqis were killed in the war and the bungled occupation and civil war that followed, and another 1.3 million were displaced from their homes. And what did their losses—and ours—produce? A destabilized Middle East, a newly emboldened and empowered Iran, and “widespread hatred of the U.S.”

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