“American soldiers killed in attack. ” This is the latest headline out of Iraq, yet stories like these are all too common, even while the armed forces do their best to censor the reality of the war from reaching the home front. The brutal realities of the war in Iraq cannot be sufficiently censored to prevent Americans from finding out the horrible toll our soldiers pay each day, losing their humanity by killing and losing their minds by having to see their friends’ arms or legs blown off.
The American public has finally started to voice its opposition to the protracted war in Iraq, as recent polls and presidential approval ratings show that the public is increasingly upset with the direction the war has taken, even though support for the troops continues to remain high.
As it stands, opposition to the war also continues to grow and the polarization that marked the early days of the war is diminishing, as citizens, politicians, members of the armed forces, and even those in the Bush administration are realizing the errant decisions that led to and sustained the war have cost far too much–in billions of taxpayers’ dollars, international economic and political status, and most importantly the lives of tens thousands of Americans and many more Iraqis.
Few issues have polarized the political community and general population in the United States as the sustained war in Iraq. While most of the country agreed that invading Afghanistan was necessary to combat terrorism, the decision to invade Iraq was met with mixed feelings at best. At the time, the Bush administration used everything in its power to convince the American public and the world of the righteousness in attacking Iraq.
The many reasons, with varying degrees of honesty and accuracy, ranged from the threat of weapons of mass destruction to Iraq’s participation in terrorism to the plain fact that Saddam Hussein was a bad man. Unfortunately, many Americans who would normally be in the middle of the road on such issues were blinded by the administration’s continued propaganda about having to support a president during wartime, regardless of the terrible decisions or unexplained actions he takes, and many also believed that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A Washington Post poll of 1,003 adults taken in August of 2003 found that nearly 70% of Americans polled believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in Al Qeada’s attacks on the United States; a Time/CNN poll conducted around the same time found Americans more closely split on whether the military action in Iraq was worth the price in America lives, taxpayer dollars and other costs — 49% said yes, 43% no and 8% were unsure (“Poll: 70% Believe Saddam, 9-11 Link”).
With its aims justified in the eyes of the misinformed American public, in March of 2003 the Bush administration got its wish to expand the war in the Middle East to include Iraq. This initial invasion was a showcase for the massive military industrial complex that provided scores of new technological advances in recent years designed to maximize death.
Memorable images from the invasion include the “shock and awe” campaign of large bombs and missiles tearing up Baghdad, the famous toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue by Iraqi civilians, and President George Bush landing in a fighter jet upon an aircraft carrier, only to give a speech in front of a large banner that read “Mission Accomplished! ” The tragically comedic irony of that banner can only be understood in hindsight, and only by those fortunate enough not to have been in Iraq.
Over four years later, the mission has not been accomplished, unless the mission was to create the highest possible revenues for international oil companies at the expense of young American lives. Additionally, the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq eroded much of the international good will created by the September 11 attacks. Many countries that supported the U. S. invasion of Afghanistan see the invasion of Iraq as unnecessary and nothing more than the act of a bully, the world’s lone superpower.
However, most Americans chose to dismiss the loud opinions of the international community as being shortsighted and not relatable. The economic impact of the war in Iraq is felt by all Americans each time they pump gas. In the four years since the U. S. invaded Iraq, Iraqi oilfields and associated infrastructure have sustained 400 attacks, and oil production in the country has fallen from 1. 95 barrels per day during the first quarter of 2007, short of the U. S. goal of 2. 5 million barrels per day and the previous mark of 3. 7 million under Saddam Hussein (Miller).
It is also highly reported in the media and amongst citizens that companies like Haliburton, associated with Vice President Dick Cheney, have benefited immensely from the reconstruction contracts in Iraq, leading many to believe that the war is solely for oil. The fact that oil companies are now making record profits seem to reinforce these ideas. But, another consequence of U. S. action in Iraq is that the dollar is losing its international value. The dollar has weakened against the euro, gold, copper, and other assets, and when Bush came in to office, a dollar equated to . 987 euros while now it is at . 5 (Miller).
While oil gets more expensive, the dollar weakens, in large part due America’s overwhelming dependence on it and the massive expenditures of oil, resources, and money on the war in Iraq. The business side of the war in Iraq seems to have little benefit for common Americans, who are really the ones paying the most for it in terms of dollars. Top economists estimate that the total costs for the war will exceed $2 trillion.
The Bush administration predicted in 2002 that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion, but according to a 2006 study by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes, after factoring in long-term healthcare for wounded US veterans, rebuilding a worn-down military, and accounting for other unforeseen bills and economic losses, the total could reach far above the $700 million it has so far cost for the war effort alone (Bender). With so many domestic issues requiring effort and money to rectify, this extended war does little to provide health care for the millions of Americans without it, or maintain the country’s infrastructure.
A former economic advisor to President Bill Clinton, Stiglitz based the study on past conflicts, the current war’s impact on the ballooning federal deficit, its ripple effects on overall economic growth and investment, and losses in productivity (Bender). The increasing economic costs, combined with the economic downturn experienced during Bush’s time in office is borderline catastrophic, but actually compares little to the greatest cost of the war, which is the cost of human lives.
As this speech is being written, the war has cost a total of 4,000 U. S. oldiers’ lives according to the latest body counts, and the violence continues to not on maintain its horrible pace, but even shows signs of increasing, as daily reports of not only American casualties but Iraqi civilian casualties roll in. In the same report the daily violence against civilians included a suicide truck bomber in the Sulaiman Bek city hall, a predominantly Sunni area of northern Iraq, which killed at least 16 people and wounded 67; add to this at least 21 other Iraqis that were killed or found dead in attacks nationwide and life in the U. S. -occupied country becomes more apparent (Gamel).
While it is impossible to say that Iraq was a peaceful country under the regime of Saddam Hussein, it is easy to say that it is not at all peaceful under the regime of George W. Bush. This has led to a negative view of the United States by many of the Iraqi that are supposed to be helped. According to Iraqi author, Abdul Hadi al-Khalili, who was kidnapped in broad daylight by gunmen and forced to pay $30,000 to be released, this is a product of American occupation: “Crimes like carjacking, murder, and kidnapping were nearly unheard of during the years of Saddam’s repressive police state.
The United States successfully dismantled Saddam’s government but completely failed to bring a sense of law and order to the nation of Iraq” (Al-Marashi and Hadi al-Khalili). It is apparent that the war in Iraq is bad for Americans, Iraqis, and creates a world in which countries are afraid of what the next unilateral action of the U. S. will be. An invasion of Iran, perhaps? There has been discussion along these lines, but one can only hope common sense prevails over fantastical dreams of hawks in the government.
One of the quietest statistics from the war is the number of servicemen and women wounded in action. Because the armed forces keep such firm control on media and personal reports by the soldiers, the American public is largely unaware of the sheer numbers of soldiers that come back from Iraq gravely wounded. According to the latest reports by the Department of Defense, the total U. S. Iraq War casualties stand at over 56,000; this figure includes the nearly 28,000 wounded by hostile action and almost double that amount for soldiers who were evacuated for illness and non-hostile action, a blanket description that also includes soldiers who commit suicide (White). The thing that differentiates the war in Iraq from previous wars is that the fatality rate is misleading and the casualty rate is significantly higher than Vietnam and Korea, which experienced fewer than three people wounded for every death, and the World Wars, in which there were less than two (Bilmes).
Some of this can be attributed to better medical technology and the use of body armor, but the overall theme is that there are and will continue to be a large amount of wounded veterans, both physically and psychologically, coming back to the United States needing treatment on an already grossly understaffed and under-funded Veteran Affairs administration.
So far, more than 200,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated at VA medical facilities — three times what the VA projected, according to a Government Accountability Office analysis; of these veterans, more than a third have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, and thousands more have crippling disabilities such as brain and spinal injuries (Bilmes). The Veterans Benefits Administration has 400,000 pending claims, some which will never be honored, and of the 1. million service members involved in the war from the beginning, 900,000 are still on active duty, which will only lead to greater problems when their time is up (Bilmes). The conservative estimate of the price wounded veterans will cost the U. S. taxpayers in between $300 billion and $600 billion, not to mention the price the veterans themselves have already paid. No matter what the reasons for fighting the war in Iraq may be it is apparent that those who fought it and those who paid for it will continue to pay for years to come.
There is little to suggest that the war in Iraq is justifiable or will have a positive outcome. It has created ill-will towards America from the rest of the world that may last for generations; it has killed possibly hundreds of thousands of humans, and maimed many more; it has left a country in complete shambles with little hope to pull out of it anytime soon; and, it will end up costing far more than it is worth in time, money, and lives.
As Americans continue to learn the truths about Iraq and the administration that led us there, it will continue to oppose the poor decisions. As the elections of 2006 showed, Americans are ready for a change. The only thing that remains to be seen is if the American public is ready to initiate that change or blindly maintain the status quo. Their decision is more important than they could ever realize.