Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Iraq War Triumphalism Ignores a Key Matter: Dead Civilians

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
Whenever there's an election in Iraq, U.S. triumphalism follows. In a recent column, Peter Wehner, my PoliticsDaily.com colleague, touts George W. Bush's war in Iraq and joins others in the it-hasn't-turned-out-so-bad chorus. But these pronouncements serve as a reminder that it's rather easy to be a freedom fighter with somebody else's blood.

Wehner, who worked in the Bush White House, argues that the "dramatic turnaround" in Iraq since 2006 shows that the war was not, as columnist Joe Klein once observed, "probably the biggest foreign policy mistake in American history." He echoes Thomas Friedman that "Bush's gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right." And he quotes former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker: "In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came." This sounds like saying, "All's well that ends well."

But, of course, the ultimate outcome of the Iraq war -- whatever the results of the latest election -- remains unknown. And we can continue to debate whether Bush was justified in launching the war, whether he bamboozled the public about the threat Saddam Hussein supposedly posed, and whether Bush's late surge did help nudge Iraq in a better (or less worse) direction. (It does take chutzpah to hail the Bush administration for the surge, after this crew spent years screwing up in Iraq.) Yet what is galling is the frequent absence from these discussions of a central fact: Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Iraqis are dead because of the war, and millions have been displaced, driven out of their homes and out of their country. (Another PoliticsDaily.com colleague, Jill Lawrence, has not forgotten this.)

In the United States, debates about the war often cover the obvious costs: U.S. military casualties (4,380), taxpayer money ($711 billion), and opportunities missed (Afghanistan). What often goes unmentioned is the high cost that was imposed upon the Iraqi people. Have you seen George W. Bush or Dick Cheney ever directly talk about the thousands who died and the millions who had to flee?

There's no precise number of the Iraqi civilians who lost their lives due to the war. In August 2008, a Congressional Research Service report surveyed the various estimates. It noted that a World Health Organization study covering the first three years of the war had placed the civilian death toll at 151,999. A Brookings Institution study put the number at 113,616 for the first five years. Whatever the figure, it's a lot -- and this doesn't include Iraqis who were physically or mentally injured and did not die. In per capita terms, the equivalent death figure for the United States would be over a million people. And war-related deaths are far from over in Iraq. Last month, the civilian death toll jumped to 211 people from 135 in January.

Those of us who read and watch news reports regularly see stories about car bombs and other attacks in Iraq. But have Iraqi civilian deaths ever fully registered here? Additionally, the number of Iraqis displaced within Iraq totals about 1.5 million, according to the International Organization for Migration, and nearly half a million Iraqi war refugees are living abroad.

The Iraqi civilians who were killed or who lost relatives or homes were not asked their consent for the invasion. Bush and Cheney decided their fate. Yes, Iraqis were living within a repressive state. But, no doubt, many of them had made their accommodations and were not willing to sacrifice a family member for possible regime change. Most citizens of tyrannical states manage to get by. (Ask the Chinese.) At times, populations do rise up, and in these instances, people knowingly assume risks and make sacrifices. (See Iran.) Yet in one of the most anti-democratic actions imaginable, Bush decided that he knew what was best for the Iraqi people -- and more than a hundred thousand perished.

The United States has paid dearly in blood and money for Bush's voluntary war in Iraq. But it's a mere pittance compared to what the Iraqis have been forced to pay.

"We live in an age in which trust in our public (and many of our private) institutions is at low ebb," Wehner writes. "This is something that is harmful and corrosive to our nation." Given that Wehner worked for a president who pre-sold this war with a willful campaign of misrepresentations about Iraq's WMD capabilities and ties to al-Qaeda, it's tough to take him seriously when he frets aloud about the loss of public trust. But just as "corrosive" for the nation is a triumphal consideration of the war that does not take into account the profound suffering experienced by the Iraqi people. Now that the damage has been done -- you can't cry over a spilled invasion -- we can all hope for the best in Iraq. But no one should lose sight of the fact that millions of Iraqis have already lived through the worst due to American actions.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.
Filed Under: Iraq, Deep Background
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including CNN.com, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly

80%

Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
GE
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
CEO
Click2View
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Co-Founder
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director
WCG

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
robert-and-donna-trussell
CHAOS THEORY
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>