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Ten Years On.
Author: TriSec    Date: 03/19/2013 10:26:47

Good Morning.

It's been 3,653 days since we invaded Iraq on false pretenses. This morning, it's worth reviewing our losses in blood and treasure. As always, the numbers come to us courtesy of Antiwar.com:

American Deaths
Since war began (3/19/03): 4,488
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4,347
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3,627
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 256
Since Operation New Dawn: 66

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 319
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq : 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448

We find this morning's cost of war in Iraq passing through:

$ 812, 049, 295, 000 .00


It's worth pondering that this war has taken us longer than the war to secure our own independence....or to defeat fascism....or things like inventing the atomic bomb or putting man on the moon.

But let's take a look at a couple of things. Do you remember what we were promised? Iraqi citizens would greet us as liberators. Our troops wouldn't have to fire a shot. Once free of tyranny, Iraqi society would flourish and rejoin the global community. Once we left, the news from Iraq virtually disappeared from our media. But we don't have to live with what we wrought on a daily basis. The story from Iraq is a different matter entirely.


BAGHDAD -- The Christian doctors and engineers who once populated Baghdad's Wehda neighborhood are long gone. Offices and shops have taken over the once-elegant district, and few members of the community who used to dominate the area remain.

The well-off professionals began to leave Wehda during the 1980s war against Iran, but the years of civil war, ethnic cleansing and rampant corruption that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq sealed its decline.

"After 2003, the situation for Christians gravely deteriorated," says Sarmad Matta, a 38-year-old Christian shopkeeper in the district. "They became an easy target for the armed groups, and thousands were killed or injured or abducted."

Highly qualified doctors, engineers, and university lecturers have been among the hundreds of thousands fleeing Iraq since 2003.

Shiite and Sunni Muslims have also left the country, while others sought refuge in different parts of Iraq. They feared violence at the hands of al-Qaeda and the militias linked to the new political forces.

Thousands were killed, giving bloody proof that those who fled had well-founded fears.

"We lived through hard days, and we lost brothers and family in shootings, bombings and kidnappings. Now we fear that things will stay this way in Iraq," Sarmad says.

Not all Iraqis lost out in the aftermath of the war.

For some, such as one former trader, who asks to be known only as Abu Sajad, the changes opened many doors.

"Before 2003 I had a small business as a trader in Baghdad," he confides, "but after Saddam fell things changed, and people close to me got into power, so I have been able to get various government positions. I was also able to return to university and get a doctorate, which was something I had never dreamed of before."

The father-of-five now lives in an upper-class neighbourhood that was once the preserve of high-ranking army officers under toppled leader Saddam Hussein, who was eventually hanged by the new Iraqi government.

Abu Sajad owns several SUVs, and his house is surrounded by tight security.

Over the last decade, Iraqis have seen the emergence of a parliamentary democracy, but also the spread of violence and extremism.

A decade after the fall of Saddam's regime, building a modern civil state is still an aspiration for many Iraqi politicians.

"We were expecting our dream of change to come true and to build a stable Iraqi state based on law and thought and institutions and constitutional organs," says former interior minister Jawad al-Bolany.

"Some of those hopes have been realized, but many of them need a new, open-minded vision."

The current political model was hurriedly thrown together in dangerous political and security conditions.

Most political forces draw their backing from one sectarian or ethnic bloc -- either the Shiite Arab majority or the Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities.

"We need to move away from the sectarian discourse," al-Bolany argues. "It opened up the political field to party and religious quotas and has facilitated extremist groups in committing crimes under many different names."

One of the causes of anger among the Sunni Arabs -- the group to whom Saddam Hussein belonged -- is the de-Baathification law.

The Accountability and Justice Law, as it is officially known, bans many officials of Saddam's former ruling party from a huge range of public offices.

"After all these years, we need an honest and courageous reappraisal," argues Abdel-Khadr Taher, a parliamentarian of the secular-leaning Iraqiya political bloc.

"We need national reconciliation, and we need to spread a culture of tolerance and openness and to put the past behind us. We can benefit from similar experiences in Romania and South Africa."



But that's just one aspect of what we started a decade ago now. The other ramification is our long-term presence there. To step back slightly, take a look at the island of Okinawa. We're coming up on the 68th anniversary of that invasion. The Marines never left, and there's been a longtime chafing of the residents, not to mention years of criminal events perpetrated by our own soldiers. But that's a blog for another day. Nay, we are considering what might be going on in Iraq 58 years from now. America has once again become the elephant in the room.


AMMAN -- From the streets of Cairo to the battlefields in Syria, the legacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq still looms large in the Arab world, as regional power balances continue to shift 10 years on, according to analysts.

The decision by U.S.-led powers to oust Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein has had a direct impact on the so-called Arab Spring uprisings that have swept across the region in the past two years.

"The greatest lesson the Iraq war taught the Arab street was 'don't count on the West' to solve your problems," said Oraib Rintawi of the Amman-based al-Quds Centre of Political Studies.

Suspicions over U.S. intentions in the region, sparked by the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, have prompted political movements in the Arab world to distance themselves from the West and project themselves as home grown.

Opposition movements in post-Arab Spring countries such as Tunisia and Egypt have begun to label ruling Islamists as "agents of the West."

"Once seen as enemies of the West, Islamists are being accused of carrying out Western agendas and the status quo," Rintawi told dpa. "After the Iraq war, being associated with the US is as good as political suicide."

US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent Cairo visit his snubbed by opposition figures, even as he encouraged them to reconsider boycotting upcoming parliamentary elections.

One of the biggest legacies of the invasion is a struggle between Sunni and Shiite powers seeking influence.

By ousting Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime, Western powers removed the sole counterbalance to Shiite Iran, sparking Tehran's battle for regional dominance with Saudi Arabia -- a Sunni heavyweight.

The rivalry has spawned proxy wars and political standoffs stretching from Iraq to Lebanon.

"There is no question that the Iraq war not only bolstered Iran but regionalized tensions between Sunni and Shiite powers," said Mustafa al-Sayyed, political science professor at Cairo University.

The Saudi and Iranian post-Iraq war sparring for regional supremacy has given rise to a host of political realignments. Tehran and Riyadh bankroll and support proxy Sunni and Shiite militant groups in Lebanon, Iraq and currently in Syria.

"If Saddam had still been in power, many of these conflicts would never have occurred," al-Sayyed told dpa.

One of the greatest impacts of the war continues to be felt in the halls of power in Washington, London and Brussels, where decision-makers have been deterred from additional military interventions in the Arab world.

Analysts claim that the Iraq invasion and subsequent years of deadly sectarian unrest in the country have discouraged the West from military intervention in Syria, a move they say has unnecessarily extended the country's two-year conflict.

"Fears of a second Iraq have led to weak Western positions on Syria, and the Syrian regime has taken advantage of these fears," said Nadim Shehadi, a fellow at the London-based Chattham House think-tank.

Growing influence of jihadist rebels in Syria and the sectarian nature of President Bashar al-Assad's regime has led many Western leaders to draw the "wrong parallels" with Iraq, according to Shehadi, discouraging the US and Europe from arming rebel forces.

"Many Western leaders look at Syria and believe they are looking at another Iraq waiting to unravel," Shehadi said. "Rather than learning the right lessons from the invasion and supporting home-grown opposition movements, they are allowing the conflict to spiral into chaos."


But that is the legacy of one war in one region. We've been in another place even longer, and while it's all about Iraq today, I don't want to neglect our other conflict here, either.

Today is our 4,181st day in Afghanistan. While our costs in blood have been far less in this part of the world, it's still too expensive.

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,178
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,080

Nor is it cheap in treasure, as we find the cost of Afghanistan passing through:

$622, 217, 125, 000 .00


There's undoubtedly going to be much analysis, and perhaps some rending of garments and gnashing of teeth from certain pundits today, for whatever reason. As I ponder that "Ask A Vet" will soon be entering it's 9th year this April, I'll leave you with something Dr. Maddow said about the war long ago now.

"The Iraq War won't truly end until the last, tortured veteran dies screaming in his sleep perhaps 70 years from now."

43 comments (Latest Comment: 03/20/2013 02:13:14 by Will in Chicago)
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