Now that our military has withdrawn from Iraq, it is appropriate to assess US leadership during this war:
• US soldiers Killed: 4487.
• US soldiers wounded: 32,221.
• US soldiers who committed suicide: 349 in 2012 and 301 in 2011.
• Average wait time for veterans to receive benefits: 273 days.
• Veterans who waited one year or more for benefits: 245,000.
• Cost of the war: $810 Billion and a prime cause of America’s skyrocketing debt.
• Cost of reconstruction projects in Iraq: $60 Billion.
• Cost of deploying one US soldier for one year: $390,000.
• Iraq’s killed: at least 134,000.
• Original estimate by the Bush Administration of the cost of the war: $60 Billion.
What’s clear from these numbers is that our nation paid a high price in blood and money to topple a regime that did not possess the weapons of mass destruction as proclaimed by the Bush Administration. Further, with a mixture of ignorance and arrogance, our leadership dismantled Saddam Hussein’s regime and the government structure so completely that we could not leave Iraq in such a weakened state in a hostile region. Our invasion had destroyed a tyrant, but it also left us without an exit strategy. We did not fully understand the Iraqi culture and the age-old hatreds bubbling beneath the surface. The Administration had expected that the people of Iraq would see the US as the liberating force that ousted Saddam and brought them freedom and democracy. What our leaders failed to realize is that democracy cannot be granted by an outside power, it must be forged from within a people. Consequently, after ten plus years of war where does Iraq stand.
• Iraq is not the stable strategic US ally in the region as planned.
• Sectarian violence continues between two rival branches of Islam: Shiites and Sunnis for political dominance.
• Iraq’s Kurdish population wants autonomy.
• Outside terrorists continue to infiltrate the country adding to the violence and insecurity.
• Tribal infighting continues.
• The Iraqi police force and army are struggling to maintain the peace.
• The Iraqi government is accused of corruption and often unable to manage its own affairs.
Based on this, I don’t know how any leader who authorized this second Iraq War can look at any parent, spouse, son or daughter of a service member who died in this war and say that their sacrifice was worth it. However, for the sake of all those who died and for the living they left behind, I hope that one day that we will agree that our brave men and women did not die in vain. As a Vietnam Era veteran, I’m certain that the Vietnam War was not worth the 58,000 American deaths.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer. He has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders.
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