In the past week, we’ve tried to provide much-needed scrutiny of who was right and who was wrong in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003. Micah Sifry, co-editor of the Iraq War Reader, looked back at the collection of “history, documents and opinions” he helped put together a decade ago and specifically named those who got it right — and those who didn’t.
But as we’ve examined the role our media played in enabling the Bush administration’s lust for war, we haven’t said enough about the costs of the war for the people of Iraq — possibly because they are nearly impossible to quantify after a decade of crippling sanctions followed by a decade of war.
Recent estimates find between 110,000-123,000 civilians were killed and millions were displaced from their homes as a result of the war. One report says that there are now 4.5 million orphans in Iraq. Even though the U.S. occupation has now been officially over for more than a year, violence still rages and the death toll continues to mount, as the ethnic and religious rivalries the Bush administration were so ignorant of at the outset of the war fester.
Since the invasion, the freedoms Iraqi women once enjoyed have disappeared. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not appointed one female to a cabinet post and women are now subject to tribal rule, which has resulted in them fading almost completely from economic life.
Violence against women is rising and the images of a Baghdad full of women without headscarves, driving themselves through the streets or filling college classes, are now distant memories.
The consequences of the Iraq War for the United States can only be hinted at, with numbers like 4,487 Americans killed and 36,395 wounded. Estimates that the war has already cost us $1.7 trillion and could end up destroying more than $6 trillion in taxpayer wealth don’t even begin to describe the damage the Iraq disaster has exacted on the tiny percentage of the American people who actually fought in it.
For those who served and their families, the tragedy will linger on for a lifetime. Meanwhile, the politicians who demanded the war have merely suffered only a loss of reputation, and the pundits who supported them have barely been scathed for their cheerleading.