Five years ago, the United States invaded Iraq and set in motion a chain of events that most Americans wish had never been unleashed. While President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been making the rounds to convince a skeptical public that the war has been critical for America’s national security interests, their words ring hollow. With 4,000 Americans killed, 30,000 wounded, and over half a trillion dollars spent so far, this unfortunate anniversary is the proper time to step back for a reality check.
At this point, it’s hard to remember why we went to war in the first place, especially given the number of times the rationale has changed.
Did we go in to root out weapons of mass destruction?
Or to depose an unsavory dictator?
Or to spread democracy in the Middle East?
Or to further the so-called war on terror?
Or perhaps because of Iraq’s violations of U.N. resolutions?
Repeatedly, as each stated reason for the war began to look indefensible, the administration and its backers would trot out a new line of reasoning seemingly better suited to developments on the ground.
Certainly, the administration’s initial decision to invade Iraq in the absence of an imminent threat cost us valuable international support and legitimacy. But the original bad decision was only the beginning of a poorly conceived and executed plan for Iraq. Bush ignored experts, including many in his own administration, who correctly predicted the levels of sectarian violence we’ve seen over the last five years.