Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pat Buchanan: Was the Iraq venture worth the cost? 90 months of war in Iraq come to an end for America, what was won? And what was lost?

To stampede us into war, the neocons told us that Saddam was tied to al Qaeda and had a role in 9/11, that he had VX gas, botulism, mustard gas, sarin and anthrax, and was acquiring nuclear weapons. What further proof must you have, demanded Condi Rice, "a mushroom cloud over an American city"?

The truth. Saddam had no tie to al Qaeda, no role in 9/11, no chemical weapons, no biological weapons, no nuclear program.

We attacked a nation that did not attack us, did not threaten us and did not want war with us -- to strip it of weapons it did not have.

We were misled. We were deceived. We were lied to.

The cost: 4,400 dead, 35,000 wounded, $700 billion sunk.

"Much has changed since that night" we marched into Iraq, said President Obama. "A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives. Tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested."

Estimates of Iraqi war dead run from 70,000 to 100,000, which means hundreds of thousands of Iraqi widows and orphans. Christians have seen priests murdered, churches burned and half their number driven into exile. Four million Iraqis have left or lost their homes. Two million are in exile, as Baghdad has been cleansed of Sunnis. Al Qaeda was not in Iraq under Saddam. It is there now.

"Time to turn the page," said President Obama.

How does Iraq turn the page, as we retreat to secure bases and prepare to bring home the last 50,000 troops?

Terrorism has returned. Iraq's casualties are back up to where they were before the U.S. surge. Electricity is off much of the time. Six months after elections, no government exists. The Iraqi dead, wounded, widowed, orphaned, homeless and exiled are surely not better off.

What about those we leave behind? What happens to Iraqis who worked with us when we leave? How did our Vietnamese friends fare? What kind of future will Iraqis have, if civil and sectarian war return?

That our soldiers, Marines, diplomats and aid workers did their jobs bravely and honorably is understood by their countrymen -- and attested to by the fact the U.S. military is the most respected of our institutions.

But was the war worth it? Some 72 percent of Americans said in a recent CBS poll that it was not worth the price in U.S. war dead.

What does the secretary of defense think?

"It really requires a historian's perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run," says Robert Gates. "How it all weighs in the balance over time remains to be seen." A seven-year war, and our minister of defense cannot declare that it was all worth it.

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