The Iraq War's Unhappy Anniversary

Remembering the bipartisan efforts to expand the size and power of government.


At about 9:30 p.m. on March 19, 2003, the shooting phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom began, with an unsuccessful "decapitation strike" aimed at top Iraqi leadership, including Saddam Hussein. Shortly thereafter, President George W. Bush told the American people in a nationally televised address that we'd gone to war "to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

Ten years later, the future of "Iraqi Freedom" is unclear at best, but it's evident that there wasn't much to disarm and that the world was never in grave danger.

What has the Iraq War cost us, and what lessons, if any, have we learned?

Placing all the blame for the war on neoconservatives lets everyone else off far too lightly, it seems to me. The 2002-03 rush to war was a bipartisan flight from responsibility.

In 2002, very few of our elected representatives were interested in doing basic due diligence before exercising the solemn responsibility that the Constitution gives Congress in the power "to declare War." From late September 2002 on, copies of the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate on the Iraq threat were available to any member of the House or Senate who wanted to review it. Only a handful even bothered. Then-Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)—our current secretary of state and his predecessor—weren't among the six senators who took the time to read the report before voting for war. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) explained that getting away to the secure room to read the NIE—a short walk away across the Capitol grounds—is "not easy to do" and that NIEs make for "extremely dense reading."

The Beltway intelligentsia didn't comport itself any better. In a recent article for the New Republic, "The Eve of Destruction," TNR's John B. Judis describes "what it was like to oppose the Iraq War in 2003." Lonely: "within political Washington, it was difficult to find like-minded" opponents of the war. "Both of the major national dailies—The Washington Post and The New York Times (featuring Judith Miller's reporting)—were beating the drums for war," as were most of "Washington's thinktank honchos."

Not all of them, however. In a 2001 debate on Iraq with former CIA Director James Woolsey, my Cato Institute colleague, then-Chairman William Niskanen, argued that "an unnecessary war is an unjust war" and one we would come to regret having fought.

Niskanen was right. A new report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University tallies up the costs: nearly 4,500 U.S. troop fatalities, an eventual budgetary cost of some $3.9 trillion and more than 130,000 civilians as "collateral damage."

Amateur ornithologist Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) calls the dovish Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a "wacko bird" for raising questions about unchecked presidential war-making. Still, Paul ruled the roost at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference, winning CPAC's presidential straw poll.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on another poll of CPAC attendees, in which "only 34 percent said the US should adopt a more muscular role [abroad]; 50 percent said the US should pull back, leaving it more to allies to take care of trouble spots." George Will reported on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that what he saw at CPAC was "the rise of the libertarian strand of Republicanism, which has an effect in foreign policy that is a pullback from nation-building and other ambitions aboard that they never countenance from government at home."

Bill Niskanen, who passed away last year at the age of 78, never tired of reminding conservatives that war is a government program—and an especially destructive one at that.

The message may be starting to sink in.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Examiner.

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  1. The world is a much better place without Saddam Hussein. Liberty!

    1. No, it isn’t. And even if it was, it doesn’t justify the horffic costs, which are still revealing themselves even now

      1. The world was a better place with the dictator Saddam Hussein in it? Really? Hahahahaha…..

        1. Yes, it was. Not because of him, per se, but because of the absence of an full-on war and occupation that resulted in mass death, suffering, and chaos

          1. Yep, liberty does have costs.

            1. “LIBERTY”

              Yea, that Nouri Al-Maliki sure is a bastion of freedom. Have you actually read anything about Iraq lately?

            2. And with the exception of the Kurds, most Iraqis do not feel all that grateful for the freedom we bestowed on them.

              1. Really, the prefer Saddam. The Shia prefer Saddam. Hahahahaha…..

            3. Lyle’s got his head so far up his ass he can see the plaque on the back of his teeth.

            4. If the Iraqis had gotten any measure of liberty, I might think that there was at least some benefit to the ten year catastrophe.

              Between 100,000 dead Iraqis and the ongoing sectarian war, I don’t think they are doing very well.

              1. Not to mention Maliki is just another strongman. As bad as Saddam? No, not close. But not some kind of liberal leader of a new democracy either

                1. Maliki isn’t that strong a man.

              2. 100,000? Try 1,000,000. That’s been confirmed multiple times.

          2. Not because of him, per se, but because of the absence of an full-on war and occupation that resulted in mass death, suffering, and chaos

            1)Quantifiably fewer people have died without Sadaam as compared to with Sadaam.

            2) Sadaam dying was inevitable. If you want to get a look at what would’ve happened without US intervention, look to post-Tito Yugoslavia. Or Syria. Not that this justifies US intervention, but Iraq is absolutely freer and better off than without the US intervention. That a ‘libertarian’ would imply otherwise is disturbing to say the least.

            1. 1) What a weird way to measure. He had decades, and was helped by harsh sanctions which resulted in deaths that Western governments bear much responsibility for. Are you making the case that an equal amount of Iraqis would have died post-2003 without an American invasion/occupation? Ridiculous

              2) Wild speculation

              1. 1) Fewer people died during the war than an equivalent period of Sadaam’s reign.

                2) AHAHAHAHAHA But the notion that everything would’ve been okay without US intervention is totally not speculation and is eminently sensible.

                1. Gojira| 12.13.12 @ 4:29PM |#|?|filternamelinkcustom


              2. The point Cytotoxic is making is that the post-Saddam power struggle was a high-probability event, such that making it the centerpiece for an objective measurement of the Iraq War’s human cost/benefit is fatuous.

                1. TIT sees my point and actually responds to it. You guys should try to rise to TIT’s level. But focus graduating 5th grade for now.

                  1. Well, I don’t think OIF was a good idea so you’re barking up the wrong tree on that one, Cyto.

                    I just don’t think that most of the rationalizations given by the anti-war crowd are valid or necessary to oppose OIF and that foreign policy is not quite as easy to evaluate as domestic policy.

            2. Quantifiably fewer people have died without Sadaam as compared to with Sadaam.

              If your death would save two Iraqis, would you kill yourself right now?

          3. “A sure way to appease a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured by it.”

            –Konrad Adenauer

        2. It actually was, Lyle. Back then we still had that 2.2 Trillion dollars in the bank, and we hadn’t lost those 5k soldiers.

          Some loud-mouth dictator oppressing his people? Not worth trillions of dollars and thousands of soldiers, IMHO.

          1. Iraq is an issue where the cold-blooded foreign policy realists and the libertarian “war is evil” crowd (I’m still working out where I fall) agree. Only the wide-eyed neocons, would-be architects of a brave new world, and the willfully uninformed red state morons think it was a good idea

            1. Yeah, we should’ve just somehow expected the psycho dictator America pissed off in ’91 would somehow not turn to hurting America. Good plan!

              1. “hurting America”

                Define please.

                1. Aiding terrorist organizations. Which Sadaam did, most notably the Abu Nidal Organization.

                  1. Has Abu Nidal attacked America? Also, apparently many Palestinians believe Saddam ordered his death, so…

                    1. The ANO did kill Americans.

                  2. Cytoxic is following Lyle’s head up his ass. Now they can both see the plaque on the back of Lyle’s teeth!

              2. Really? What hurting was he doing?

                “. . .America pissed off in ’91 would somehow not turn to hurting America”

                Yeah, that’s not really a good justification – its like saying that I slugged my neighbor and now I have to kill him so he doesn’t have a chance to hit me back.

                The world being a better place is not enough justification to going to war – if it were we would never stop fighting, ’cause theres NK, Zimbabwe, China, Congo, etc.

    2. ?I’ve got a little list.
      They’d none of them be missed.?

    3. What makes you certain Saddam Hussein would still be in power today without the war? Iraq might have gone the way of Egypt or Tunisia.

      1. NO. They would’ve gone the way of Syria. Could be worse.

      2. He fended off at least two mini-revolts in Kurdistan and in the Shia south.

        Remember him gassing the Kurds? That was him successfully maintaining power.

        He wasn’t likely to fall without western intervention of some kind.

      3. Saddam Hussein had an established power base with a regionally powerful military on its side. Might have happened, but unlike Libya (which has never had a good military) and Egypt (which drew its military from the general population), Iraq had a good chance of survival under Poppa Hussein.

    4. How much time did you spend with sand up your ass?

  2. The fact that the people who pushed this fucking disaster on the country still have any credibility shows we live in a world of absolutely NO repercussions for the powerful.

  3. But, hey! This time Barry and Benjamin are going after the Real Villains in Tehran!

    It’s sure to be a big success.

  4. The politicians just can’t help sticking their grimy fingers into every corner of the world. Because they can, and because there are absolutely no repercussions for them whatsoever. Look at it from their perspective: why not, if it makes them feel powerful?

    1. What are we supposed to do, you isolationist peacenik dingbat? Sit on our asses, perfectly safe from real harm, and let other people sort out their business? You cray cray

      1. I’m clearly too childish and should probably just let the adults talk about endless occupation and why they think that’s good.

        1. Here’s the AF deployment patch for you:

          Technically it was for Operation Southern Watch, but close enough right?

    2. In a very real way, we were better off with the Soviets as a Super Power. They kept us in check.

      1. The threat of nuclear annihilation and endless proxy wars was not ‘better off’.

        1. How many folks were annihilated exactly?

          The Soviets kept us from engaging in conflicts that now we don’t give a second though to.

          1. Agreed, but there are billions who don’t have to live under the yoke of Stalinist dictatorship. As bad as our foreign policy is today, it’s a consequence of willful narcissism rather than a natural consequence of our glorious triumph over fascists and communists in WWII – Cold War.

          2. t

          3. How many folks were annihilated exactly?

            Allow me to weave you a tale of a magical place called Vietnam.

            1. Were nuclear weapons used in Vietnam? I wasn’t aware.

          4. I seem to recall that the primary difference was that back then, we excused our pointless invasions and general foreign policy idiocy by saying that if we didn’t, the commies would win.

            But it does seem to be true that after Vietnam, we became a lot more circumspect about whether a particular military operation was winnable/worthwhile. The possibility of a propaganda defeat concerned us a lot more back then, whereas now I guess politicians see them as a way to push new laws.

  5. “What has the Iraq War cost us, and what lessons, if any, have we learned?”

    Cost: 2.2 Trillion dollars (before interest), 5k dead soldiers, about 200k dead Iraqis…

    Learned: Absolutely nothing.

    1. Getting Democrats and the media to show how full of shit they are: priceless.

  6. A veteran of the Iraq invasion…..q_invasion

    1. And? I could pull up dozens who say the war was a massive crime

        1. Here you go

          The Iraq war (both of them) were massive crimes.

          1. Great, that’s your opinion. I agree with the veteran reported on in the Boston Herald though.

            “Massive crimes”… hahaha. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a “massive crime”. Getting him out of Kuwait was a “massive crime”. Haha. Getting him out of Kuwait was international law my man.

            Bush ain’t going to jail ever. If you think he should you do something about it.

            Get to work man!!!

            1. Bush won’t go to jail but he will live in shame and infamy forever.

              The worst POTUS ever. History will piss all over him. Already he is unwelcome at his own party conventions.

              1. The worst POTUS ever.

                I agree that he was one of the worst, but the worst? Not by a long shot.

                1. My rule is that no matter how true it seems at the time, I have to wait at least 20 years before applying historical superlatives like “worst president.” Obama is a good example of why.

              2. … and Iraqi self-rule holds together, my bet is a bunch of stuff in Iraq gets named George W. Bush.

            2. Invading a sovereign nation who has not attacked us is a crime in my book. Stealing money from tax payers to fund it is another crime.

              I don’t give a shit if someone is a veteran of Iraq, their opinion on this is not more valid than anybodies here.

    2. Let’s ask these quys what they think of the whole thing:…..5-minutes/

      In the time it takes Lyle to stick his head up his ass (with a head that big I’m guessing about an hour) yet another vet has capped his own dome.

      1. You make some good arguments. Hahaha….

  7. The initial Iraq invasion was a huge success and obviously the right thing to do. It was not Bush’s war, but his dad’s. Stupid HW started it and didn’t finish. Clinton ‘maintained’ a status quo that was unsustainable. It was the occupation and nation-building that were a disaster not the liberation of Iraq. Also, a free Kurdistan will be a great western ally. Israel #2. So awesome.

    1. Just in case this is not sarcasm, I’d like to point out that occupation is what generally follows invasion. No, I’m not going to point that out, since this absolutely had to be sarcasm.

    2. “Stupid” HW’s finest moment was his decision to take the cautious approach after Gulf War 1 and not go full bore. Too bad his son ruined it.

      Who knows how Kurdistan will go 10 years from now? Are they going to remain grateful forever?

      1. Before his son ‘ruined’ the situation, an anti-American psycho was running an entire nation behind a crumbling containment regime. That’s something I’m glad W ruined.

        HW was a fool for getting America involved over there and a worse fool for leaving that dictator in place after pissing him off. The ‘anti-war’ types here sure do like situations that lead to war.

        1. The removal of Saddam has allowed Iran to go full crazy on their nuclear program, something Saddam would have squashed IMO.

          1. Saddam had no power over Iran, I don’t see how he could do anything about any program of theirs.

            1. You think he would let Iran build a nuke without trying to do something about it?

    3. Yeah.

      Israel is such a great ally. Why without Israel, most of the Muslim world would hardly know America exists.

      ps: Let’s not mention the USS Liberty.

      1. Shhhh. They’re gonna call you an anti-semite now for pointing out that “alliances” usually work both ways, but for some reason we are supposed to make an exception here.

        1. No I’ll just call him a fool. Few alliances have been so mutually beneficial as the one with Israel. A vanguard of civilization in a savage place is priceless.

          1. I’m sure the legionnaires of Publius Quinctilius Varus would agree.

              1. Google it, idiot.

                1. You’re point is entirely irrelevant. You need to come up with a relevant argument… IDIOT!


              Barack “Augustus” Obama

      2. Why without Israel, most of the Muslim world would hardly know America exists.


        1. Indeed. Muslims don’t need Israel or even Jews to hate the West and Christianity,

          1. They’ve got those Hindus too!

          2. Not as long as they have oil. That’s where Africa screwed up, not having a shitload of oil.

    4. It was the occupation and nation-building that were a disaster not the liberation of Iraq.

      Yeah, kind of like how hacking off a limb is easy but keeping the victim from bleeding out and dying from infection is hard.

      1. The difference being that in the case of Iraq, the goal (to prevent Iraq from becoming a regional nuclear power) could have been accomplished without nation-building/occupation.

        If the goal in hacking off a limb is to heal some wound or for some medical condition, then keeping the victim from bleeding out is important. If the goal is to sever that person’s arm for whatever reason, then keeping the victim from bleeding out, while noble, may have nothing to do with whether you achieved your objective.

        1. the goal (to prevent Iraq from becoming a regional nuclear power)

          Oh, so you bought that line of bullshit?

    5. A huge sucess yes, the right thing to do – no.

  8. Here is a pretty good article by one of Canada’s best.


    1. George Jonas is Ann Coulter without the funny quotes.

      1. You’re a twat.

        1. So is Ann Coulter.

    2. What the fuck is the deal with their comment section, do they all run together for all the articles? Anyways, look at this gem for the China abortion article:

      edward nygma ? 5 hours ago
      The Chinese situation is very different from that in the West. China has an extreme overpopulation problem. Massive overpopulation can cause widespread damage to the environment, which, in turn, threatens the ability of people to live there at all. China has to do something. And they have. Their government’s actions may be a necessary evil to avoid the catastrophe of an ever-growing human population that consumes everything in sight. And then sets its sights on foreign countries when their own resources run out.
      8 1 ?Reply?Share ?

      1. Hong Kong population density/sq ml: 18,176

        China population density/sq ml:

        Guess “overpopulation” is what you make of it.

      2. Their government’s actions may be a necessary evil to avoid the catastrophe of an ever-growing human population that consumes everything in sight.

        Things to do when my time machine is finished:

        #43: send enygma to post “Four Pests Campaign” China and strand him there.

  9. I feel bad for the Warboners who pounded that sandy hole for ten years and never got a climax out of it.

    1. We did get climax out of it-after about 6-weeks. The mistake was in trying to get Iraq to climax which took way too much effort and time.

  10. For you interventionists, Dumbya should have take Saddam out “Obama style” – with no ground forces and little money (see Libya and Egypt).

    Absent that possibility stay the fuck out.

    1. Obama had little to do with Egypt’s revolution.

      Libya was a coastal nation with little air support.

      Different countries require different tactics, and tactically the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was absolutely brilliant and exceeded expectations. (The occupation, not so much).

      1. The invasion of Iraq was successful but given the sorry state of Saddam’s military it was hardly “absolutely brilliant”.

        It was more like a cakewalk.

        1. So why was it a worse tactic than what Obama has done? It seems like it worked perfectly for the objective at hand.

          1. Because it cost $2 trillion and countless innocent lives.

            Obama spent just $500 million on Libya and invested nothing via a ground war to help depose Qadaffi.

            Obviously I am a Utilitarian.

            1. God knows you have no principles.

            2. The invasion certainly did not cost $2 trillion. The invasion plus the occupation has. The continued occupation is separate from the invasion.

              You were arguing that Obama’s military intervention in Libya was much better than the invasion of Iraq but then agreed that the invasion was perfect for its objective but only because Iraq’s military sucked.

              Where did those goal posts go??

              1. You miss the point. I don’t maintain that Bush is a war criminal like you have.

                My hatred of Bush is for lying us into an expensive war and nation building exercise that had no benefit.

                Bush NEVER intended to stop at the killing of Saddam. He wanted to remake the world on our dime.

                1. Bush did not lie. The intelligence was wrong. You are a mendacious fuck.

                  If you would like to argue that Iraq having WMDs is not a legitimate reason to go to war, I’d entertain it and agree with you.

                  Saying Bush lied is complete bullshit. All the intelligence agencies were saying Saddam had a WMD program since the end of the gulf war. So please, take your lips off Obama’s cock and fuck off and die in a fire.

                  There are plenty of things to criticize BOOOOSH for. Only a fucking douchebag would need to make shit up.

                  1. Bush was told by the CIA that Niger was NOT SELLING yellowcake to Iraq before he lied to the same effect in the SOTU address.

                    He lied straight up to this country.

                    And then the Bushpigs outed an undercover CIA agent in order to extract revenge from her (CIA) husband who told the truth.

                    It is close to TREASON what Bush did.

        2. It was brilliant. The logistics alone will be studies decades from now.

          We took far less time and invaded with far less death and toll on civilian infrastructure than was originally estimated. I can break a Ming dynasty vase quite easily — it’s a whole other skillset to crack open that same vase with little damage in under five seconds.

  11. I like how people on this thread are saying “well, if you asked Iraqi’s -except for maybe the Kurds- they all would prefer Saddam back in power”.

    Holy shit that is some amazing cognitive dissonance.

    1. Nope.

      We’re saying “We should have stayed the fuck out.” SH was not the problem.

      Now we’ve got Iraq as a perpetual sectarian war between Shias and Sunnis until the next strongman takes control.

      1. SH was clearly a problem.

        1. For Iran he was.

          Bush managed to unify the Shia’ Crecent – something Persians had been trying for decades.

          It is certainly amazing how many “libertarians” here are revealed as conservative/neocons.

          1. Meh. It looks like 3 or 4 so far.

        2. SH was an *Iraqi* problem.

          1. … and became a U.S. problem when he invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia.

            1. Nope. He became a Kuwaiti and Saudi problem. Nice try with the dumbass reason though.

              1. Are you a fucking imbecile? America, not to mention the whole world, doesn’t rely on the oil in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia? Huh?

                How fucking stupid are you?

                The UN Security Council even passed a resolution on Saddam and Kuwait. That’s how big a deal it was. China and Russia even agreed to removed Saddam Hussein.

                Learn how the world works you stupid fuck!!!

      2. After Afghanistan crumbled a large amount of Islamic terrorists descended on Iraq and were welcomed by a significant portion of Iraqi intelligence. This is not even in dispute. Zarqawi himself was

        I don’t understand why people feel the need to defend Saddam as some innocent bystander in all of this. It’s ridiculous.

        1. I don’t think anybody is saying that. Most here are saying we should have stayed the fuck out of that desert hell hole, but not for his benefit.

    2. There is nothing the ‘anti-war’ folks won’t peddle to justify The Narrative. Fuck, some of them will say that Afghanistan wasn’t the enemy after 9/11 because the hijackers were Saudi.

      1. “Afghanistan” wasn’t the enemy. It is now.

    3. I don’t know about the Iraqis, but I know that the US would be better off if they had never invaded Iraq.

      But if you do want to ask the Iraqis who they’d prefer, I would start with the 100k or so dead as a result of the war.

      1. Forget it Hugh, it’s warboner time.

      2. What about the many more that are alive because of this war?

        1. Why the fuck would we care? Jesus fuck Cyto, what is it with the notion that it’s our job to police the entire fucking world?

          Iraq, FOR THE UNITED STATES, was a net negative. PERIOD!

          1. I don’t think anyone can say that it was a net negative or positive at this point considering its only been ten years.

            If in ten years from now Baghdad looks like Erbil does now, you could easily argue it’s a net positive for the US since you would have a modern westernized Arab culture that would pose a sharp contrast to the medieval backwater in Iran and Saudi Arabia, thus putting the emphasis on the failures of Arab culture instead of American influence.

            I’m not kidding when I say I have Kurdish friends who think they are better off in Erbil from a financial standpoint than Tennessee right now. Few people discuss how well they are doing there.

            1. Exxon is doing business in Kurdistan right now. That’s a plus for the United States.

              1. Yes, but Kurdistan as a regional government is operating in defiance to the Iraqi government’s demands that their oil be distributed “equitably”.

                Tomorrow’s Erbil may not be so stable depending on whether today’s Iraq continues on its current trajectory.

              2. Well, Exxon shareholders anyway.

            2. The bottom line is, to us, it wouldn’t made a bit of fucking difference if Iraq was the shining beacon of democracy or the worst dictatorship on the face of the planet.

              We spent 10 fucking years trying to drag people to a system they clearly have no desire for. We lost 5000 folks doing it. We have completely decimated our warfighting capability doing it. Our debt is through the roof, our economy in the shitter. We got 100,000 civilians killed in the process.

              What’s the ROI? Was Saddam gonna invade NYC?

              Iraq was a pimple on the ass of humanity. An annoyance at best.

              1. *have

                Edit function please!


              3. Well the US didn’t look so good 10 years after the revolution, so shouldn’t we give them a similar amount of time?

                So many people who claim we should learn from history ignore it when they don’t like what it says.

                1. The US ratified a secular Constitution way back then – Iraq an Islamic manifesto.

                  1. The Articles of Confederacy were an absolute disaster. Probably worse than the Iraqi constitution is now in terms of ruling a country. Especially considering Iraq has three major religious groups that have been pitted against each other for years.

                2. revolution = invasion?

                  You should change your moniker to Not a Logician or Not a Historian.

                  1. So the British Colonies were considered French territories at the time of the Revolution? Or else the British gave the French permission to give money, arms, and men to the colonial revolutionaries?

                    Without French money, arms, and men we probabably would have lost the war. Without the things many people here are decrying now, we probably would not have broken away from British rule.

                    Before the French entered the war (and without them engaging the British elsewhere) at best the Revolutionary War was at a stalement. A better assessment would be we were losing.

                    We were an international joke for years after the Revolutionary War. Everybody thought we were going to fail. Everybody tried to push us around — and succeded for a long time. Until the War of 1812 came along and we bloodied the British noses, and that was about all we did, nobody gave us any respect.

              4. You keep saying 100,000. It’s a million.


                1. Better estimates have come out since that time — and many people had problems with that one when it came out (the methodolgy was bad was the issue not the result)

      3. Given that quite a few of those killed were Shias and Kurds murdered by Sunni militias, I’m not sure that vote would be in favor of the status quo ex ante.

  12. who’s turn was it to play Lyle tonight? You started drinking too soon.

  13. Dude that looks liek its gonna be fun. Wow.

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