Normally I am person who is not bashful of crowing when I am right, living as I do in a world in which those who sit on their hands and wait for other people to notice their accomplishments might grow old before getting any recognition. Yet the fact that I happened to correctly forsee that the invasion of Iraq would turn into a disaster offers me no solace. Countless other Americans and world observers came to the same conclusion, yet our elected officials in Congress either could not or would not recognize the looming catastrophe.
The United States has flushed over $500 billion of taxpayer monies down the proverbial toilet on the ill-conceived mess that is the Iraq War. At some point in the next few weeks, the 4000th American soldier will die in the war, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died as a result of this exercise in neo-conservative sabre-rattling. These figures, of course, do not count the deaths of American contractors, coalition troops, or Iraqi armed forces in the five-year war.
The American economy has been battered by the high rate of wartime spending and - more importantly - by the skyrocketing price of oil. While Saddam Hussein may have been a brutal dictator, his ability to ensure the free flow of oil at market prices was never a concern, at least in the years when he was allowed to turn on the spigots and fill international tankers. Five years have passed since the invasion by the Coalition of the Willing, and the Iraqi oil industry is operating at only 60 percent of prewar production.
And what has been gained in these five years? Sure, Saddam Hussein is out, but in moments of extreme cynicism I suspect that this dubious goal could have been accomplished with a sniper's bullet at a whole lot less cost. The unintended effect of the removal of Saddam, however, has been the destabilization of a sovereign nation and an entire region. The nation of Iraq is now a convenient fiction, as large sections of the country are dominated by local militias and insurgent groups. The country is now an important entrepôt in the global drug trade, and Iraqi security forces are more likely to be smoking hashish or taking bribes from drug smugglers as they are to be engaging insurgents.
Unfortunately, it is apparent that President Bush is too stubborn to consider a course other than business-as-usual, so any changes in Iraq will have to wait until the next president takes possession of the Oval Office. More money, more American soldiers, and more Iraqi civilians will be sacrificed in the next year for the sole purpose of a pathetic attempt to salvage something from the rancid legacy of a failed President.
The Iraq War has uncovered no WMD, has delivered little freedom or democracy to Iraqi civilians, and has not even been able to deliver stable oil prices. The invasion of Iraq has been an utter failure in shock-and-awe, muscle-flexing diplomacy, and it is time to end President Bush's misguided and deadly folly.