Three years ago, the US President co-piloted a fighter aircraft onto the deck of the USS Lincoln to declare "the end of major hostilities" in Iraq. Above him a banner proclaimed, "Mission Accomplished." Today, a humble 9 percent of Americans believe that the mission has really been such.
Though I respect the majority view, I have to say that it is, in fact, mistaken.
- was justified to the Congress and public with tailor-made and strongly counter-indicated reports of an ultimately non-existent threat to the US homeland -- reports in large part supplied by a wanted criminal;
- was prepared in the face of warnings by numerous experts and international statesmen, including President Bush sr. and his senior foreign policy staff;
- triggered an international diplomatic crisis pitting the US against major allies including Germany and France, as well as against Russia, China, and other important countries;
- was blatantly illegal according to most qualified observers, including the International Commission of Jurists and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, thus undermining the authority of the UN Security Council;
- was conducted even though the Iraqi President offered to step down and go into exile;
- precipitated a costly, graft-ridden and utterly bungled reconstruction program of which only 30 percent of Iraqis are even aware, as exemplified by the miserable failure to build a health infrastructure;
- was marred by titanic tactical and strategic blunders such as allowing the looting of 250,000 tons of heavy ordnance from unguarded dumps, which is enough for several hundred years of attacks, and the decision to disband Iraq's police force and 300,000 strong army overnight, thus offering the budding insurgency vast numbers of professional fighters as well as 1769 miles of unsecured border to exploit;
- has deteriorated to a brutal counter-insurgency involving the use of chemical weapons in cities; systematic torture by US troops, implicating hundreds of US service members and extending in some cases to rape of women and children, alienating even close US allies; and death squads manned by US-trained police;
- was based on planning which severely underestimated the required troop strength, against the advise of the US Army and US Air Force chiefs of staff and that of the Secretary of State, himself a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
- involves an effective occupation that keeps 132,000 US service members and thousands of others -- many on their second or third deployments -- away from home, but which nonetheless only 1 percent of Iraqis trust for their personal protection;
- depends for military morale on fantastic misconceptions among US troops, with 85 percent believing the US mission is mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks" and 77 percent that a major reason for the war was "to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq"; while even with such false beliefs at work, 72 percent of troops on the ground hold that the US should exit Iraq within this year whether it is needed there or not;
- in fact diverted key special operations forces and intelligence resources away from the hunt for al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, and by depleting the US presence there, has enabled their allies the Taliban to reclaim most of that country and parts of Pakistan;
- has generally served the strategic interests of the USA's principal enemy while likely also spurring it to develop nuclear weapons;
- has claimed an estimated 200,000 Iraqi lives, of which 120,000 directly by violence;
- has spawned a major civil war even by the most stringent definitions (pdf), forcing up to 100,000 families into internal displacement at present and threatening to destabilize the region;
- has not only caused enduring distrust and resentment of the US in Arab countries, including Iraq, but also become a rallying cry for international terrorism even by the administration's own admission, as well as the main source of US civilian deaths in terrorist strikes;
- may within a matter of months have claimed as many American lives as the terrorist attack of 9/11 2001, preventing whose repetition was used to justify the war in the first place;
- will soon have seen 18,000 US service members wounded in combat, though actual numbers must be much higher considering that 144,424 veterans have sought treatment from the swamped and underfunded VA system since returning from Iraq (and Afghanistan), not counting those hospitalized in military hospitals; and considering that 35 percent of Iraq veterans have already sought treatment for emotional problems;
- has already cost more in inflation-adjusted dollars than the ten-plus-year war in Vietnam, and will, according to estimates by two world-class economists, cost current and future US taxpayers $1-2 trillion when such costs as lifetime disability and healthcare for injured troops as well as the impact on the US economy are factored in.
How, then, is the war a success? Well, do you have to ask?
The Iraq War allowed George W. Bush -- who, to dedicate himself more fully to his primary interests, the joys of prostitutes, booze, and cocaine, deserted from the stateside posting his dad had secured for him to keep him out of combat in Vietnam -- to at long last fly a fighter jet in war.
That mission, I submit, was accomplished to his satisfaction on May 1, 2003.