Kentucky voices: Iraq war gains coming up short

U.S. Army soldiers from 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment posed Monday after crossing the border from Iraq into Kuwait.
U.S. Army soldiers from 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment posed Monday after crossing the border from Iraq into Kuwait. AP

On Aug. 31, the United States reportedly will draw down its combat troops in Iraq to 50,000. In addition, there will be an estimated 50,000 contract troops (mercenaries) from various countries around the world. The U.S. will keep some 38 bases in Iraq, four of them comprised of some 20 to 25 square miles each. The U.S. will also control the air space and sea lanes of Iraq.

To get to this point, an estimated 4,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed and an official 32,000 wounded. An unofficial count of wounded is estimated to be around 100,000. By the end of this month, around 1.2 million military personnel will have served in Iraq.

According to recent reports, about one third of this number will be dependent on some kind of medicine and may well need medical attention for decades. This means the cost of the war may well run over the $3 trillion suggested in 2008.

Was it worth it?

It is true that there is a parliamentary government in Iraq for the first time since its establishment in 1920. From 1920 to 2003, Iraq was governed by exclusive, tyrannical and despotic governments.

But this government has been achieved by the death of an estimated 1 million Iraqis, 100,000 or more killed in violent circumstances; 3 million driven into exile; and an estimated 1 million internally displaced. An estimated 1.2 million Sunnis were ethnically cleansed from Baghdad alone where some families had lived for centuries. Over 1,000 professors, academic personnel and medical doctors were killed; thousands more fled.

Iraq has achieved a parliamentary system of government under a constitution imposed by the U.S., but it is a trifurcated confessional and ethnic government among Arab Sunnis, Arab Shi'as and Kurds (Sunni). There are deep hatreds and suspicions among all three groups fostered by the previous authoritarian governments' divide and rule policies.

The disputes between the Baghdad government and the Kurds of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over territorities (Kirkuk and Ninewah), oil fields (Kirkuk) and water are so sharp that there are frequent armed clashes between Kurdish forces and government Arab troops.

In July, Commander of U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno recommended that a United Nations force be sent to Iraq to keep Kurds and Arabs from clashing and igniting a larger conflict. Odierno's remark also suggests the U.S. is attempting to cast blame on the leaders and peoples of Iraq for the negative consequences of the war, a policy that would go down well in the domestic politics of the U.S. with the American people's war fatigue.

The costs of the war to the peoples of Iraq have been immense. In addition to the killed, wounded, exiled and internally displaced, there has been little or no electricity for seven years in a country where summertime day temperatures can remain at 120 degrees for months. Many cities have no operative sewage system and as a result no potable water — a situation which breeds sickness, malnourished children and stunted young people. A large percentage of Iraq's Arab children have not been to school for seven years. While Arab internecine quarreling can be blamed for such dire circumstances, these developments are occurring under U.S. occupation.

More ominously, since the March 7 elections the U.S. has been pursuing policies of divide and rule to sell the American people on the idea that pluralistic democracy has been achieved in Iraq. Such a policy impedes earnest negotiations among the various contending nationalist political parties, ethnic and religious groups and political leaders and increases the potential for more conflict. It also strengthens the de facto Kurdish state in the north.

The balance sheet of the war can hardly be called a success. If it is termed as such by government and national media, it is only because the war in Afghanistan is a failure.

The war in Iraq has been a success for the Kurds and for the Arab Sunni and Shi'a elite and the supporters of the American military machine, as well as for international defense, oil and gas industries.

BP, whose oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico caused such consternation among Americans, has been awarded the concession to the Rumailah oil field, the largest in Iraq. BP received this concession because of Great Britain's strong support of the war and with the agreement of Washington.