The 10th anniversary of invading Iraq has come and gone. As responsible citizens, we must look again at the professed reasons for beginning the war, tally up the costs in blood, treasure and national reputation, and compare them to the benefits, if any, from this geopolitical adventure. The aftermath of war lives on and on and on.
Former Sen. Robert Bennett in his column on March 25, answered a question posed by the healine: "Is Iraq better off because of war?"
He amplified the question in the body of his column, "Is Iraq — and the world — better off because of the war?" and answered in the affirmative.
A more specific and more relevant question for U.S. citizens is this:"Is the United States better off because of the war?"
George W. Bush's war was a war of choice. He started it. Iraq, a nation of about 25 million people in an area about the size of California, 10,000 miles away, had not attacked the United States. The publicly stated reason to start the war was a perceived threat to the United States from the existence of weapons of mass destruction; Thus, a preventative war was justified. That reason, proffered by Bush and legitimized — to his sorrow — by Gen. Colin Powell, turned out to be bogus. Sad, but true.
Iraq was ruled by a diabolical dictator with whom we had done business. It sits on a very large pool of oil.
After 10 years, what are the costs to the United States that we can count? (Reputation costs we cannot.)
Currently, Bush's war of choice in Iraq has cost 4,408 dead, 31,921 wounded, numerous veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, at least 13,000 people dead who worked for U.S. contractors, not to mention thousands of Iraqis killed as well, $2.3 trillion expended and yet to be be expended, assuming the books can ever be closed. Because of the war, our armed forces are spread very thin.
At home, we have been unable to build roads, bridges, schools, strengthen our electrical grid and invest in tomorrow's future — the education of our children. It is estimated that the cost of this war would have fixed the needs of social security for the next 75 years.
The most consequential decision any government can make is to declare war. Isn't it odd that we have yet to declare war on Iraq? Congress did not make that decision, although it and it alone had the power. Congress delegated that power of decision to the president by joint resolution. He decided — they did not.
After 10 years, what are the benefits to the United States from our undeclared war? If the undeclared reason was access to oil, no responsible public official has ever been direct in so stating. Other "benefits" to the United States have yet to be articulated. An objective cost/benefit analysis leads only to sorrow.
One of the greatest losses is the loss of respect by our elected officials for the Constitiution and its fragmented powers. Congress' abdication of its constitutional responsibilities led to a decision for war by one man, based at best on faulty information, with all of its attendant costs in lives, treasure and respect for the supreme law of the land.
My good friend Sen. Bennett asked the wrong question. Iraq may be better off, but quite obviously the United States is not better off, unless we somehow have learned that when it comes to war and peace, Congress must assume its responsibility, take time to think, evaluate and rationally decide.
Bruce S. Jenkins is a senior U.S. district judge and a former president of the Utah Senate.
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