As the military withdrawal from Iraq proceeds on schedule with the official end of the war declared in a ceremony today in Bagdad, no doubt we all can savor a collective sigh of relief that the major part of that conflict is now over. But, obviously, it remains to be seen if the government of Iraq will be able to provide a safe and flourishing environment for all of its people and thwart any outside intervention and interference from Iran or other neighbors in the region. Time will tell. However, the main question that is probably on the minds of most Americans is "Was it worth it"?
As we ponder that question, perhaps just a few of the known facts to date about the nine year war in Iraq might be helpful in framing an answer, so please consider the following and decide for yourself.
1. American soldiers killed - 4,485.
2. American soldiers seriously injured 32,219.
3. Tax dollars spent through 2011 - $1 trillion.
4. Funds lost or unaccounted for funds - $9 billion.
5. Funds lost and reported stolen - $6.6 billion.
6. Lost or unaccounted for guns - 190,000.
7. Missing material provided to Iraqi security forces - $1 billion.
8. Funds mismanaged and wasted funds - $10 billion through just 2006.
9. Portion of $20 billion paid to KBR deemed "questionable" by Pentagon - $3.2 billion.
10. Cost of deploying one American soldier - $390,000.
11. Iraqi police and soldiers killed - 10,125.
12. Iraqi civilians killed - somewhere between 100,000 and 600,000.
13. Iraqis displaced inside Iraq - 2,225,000.
14. Percent of Iraqi professionals who have left Iraq - 40%.
15. Average daily hours Iraqi homes have electricity - 1 to 2.
16. Iraqis without access to adequate water - 70%.
So, it is not as if the population of Iraq has not suffered great loss, too. What is not known is the cost to America's prestige, credibility and moral leadership in that part of the world at the very time we need them the most in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. And then there is still Afghanistan to worry about. Yes, a malevolent dictator is gone, but many others still remain around the world. And even though an elementary form of democracy may exist, strong sectarian and tribal passions still boil underneath that seemingly calm surface which could erupt with a vengeance at the slightest of provocations. Consequently, it would be very interesting to know if the majority of Iraqis feel that they are better off today than they were nine years ago.
In any event, with Christmas just around the corner I think we all can at least share the joy of the thousands of American families who for the first time in almost a decade will be able to enjoy this holiday season together with the return of their military members from Iraq. It is in that spirit that I extend my very best wishes to all for a Merry, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Also, please note that future blogs will be suspended until after the first of the year.