Mar 19, 2018
As of March 19, it has been 15 years since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. It’s an important anniversary, albeit an extremely tragic one. The U.S. involvement in the war, which continues to this day, has resulted in tremendous costs which can be measured in many ways.
The greatest cost of the U.S. war in Iraq has been paid by the Iraqi people. One conservative estimate, counting only officially documented deaths, puts the death toll of Iraqi civilians at over 200,000. Another recent estimate, based on surveys of Iraqi households, puts the total at more like 2.4 million people who died sooner than they otherwise would have. The recent bombardment of Mosul aimed at ending ISIS control of the area is estimated alone to have killed 40,000 people.
At least another seven million Iraqis have been forced at different times to flee their homes, many into refugee camps, due to fear of ethnic violence and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure.
The war has also spread to other countries such as Syria and together with the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan and Yemen.
The war has also taken its toll on American troops, with close to 4,500 killed according to official U.S. military figures, and another 32,000 wounded. That’s not to mention all those who came home wounded mentally or those showing longer-term physical damage. One early medical study from 2004 found 10.5% of soldiers returning from Iraq suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. As long ago as 2009, the Pentagon estimated 360,000 U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered traumatic brain injuries. Many who served in Iraq have developed cancers and other illnesses.
Whatever lies the U.S. told to justify its invasion and continuing involvement in Iraq, its calculation that the Iraqi people wanted it there proved wrong. But U.S. imperialism never really bases its calculations on whether the population wants it there, but on profit. In the case of Iraq, those profits are based on oil, and while its profits may be somewhat inhibited by the situation in Iraq, the war nevertheless has allowed the U.S. oil industry to come out ahead. It’s also prevented other countries, particularly those in Europe, from getting their hands on Iraqi oil.
Despite the changes in administrations in the White House, from Bush to Obama to Trump, the U.S. war in Iraq continues to this day. Despite Obama’s promise to end U.S. combat operations, there remain over 4,000 U.S. troops and almost 7,800 mercenaries in Iraq, with another 20,000 “civilians” employed at the U.S. embassy there.
The war in Iraq gets little attention in the headlines these days. But after 15 years, its devastation should not be ignored.