Originally published in the Democratic Left here.
Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. On March 20, 2003, the United States began a large-scale bombing campaign, proudly referred to as “shock and awe.” The hubris of those initial days was misplaced. On this fifteenth anniversary, let there be no doubt: the war in Iraq was an abject catastrophe.
Premised on fabrications around Iraq’s nuclear ambitions and chemical weapons’ stockpiles, the war was illegal. The United States government knowingly fostered untrue speculation and fantasy in order to convince allied countries to join an invasion of another sovereign state. The fallout from the invasion continues to profoundly affect not only the people of Iraq, but also the world as a whole, with each tragic year compounding the horror of the last.
The Democratic Socialists of America Veterans Working Group is composed of people recovering from U.S. American imperial misadventures, and among our comrades are many Iraq War veterans. We deplore the war, condemn those who planned and effected it, beg forgiveness of the Iraqis we helped to brutalize, and call on our fellow U.S. Americans to own up to the murderous mistake that this conflict is and always has been. The ruling classes wanted a war to bring about a wider U.S. American empire. They never cared about U.S. American service members dying and never will. Their eyes now rest squarely upon Iran and North Korea, hoping to hoping to set the stage for intervention – not unlike they did in 2003. They will try again, as they can clearly see that no punishment occurred for any Iraq War architect or advocate. We must not let them succeed.
The Iraq War was an incalculable human and ecological catastrophe for the entire region. We sullied the earth and water of a country already impoverished and polluted by sanctions and airstrikes, while the war itself led to deaths, regional conflicts, permanent migrations, evacuations, epidemics, and other human disasters throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. We did this out of imperial hubris and a desire for access to oil. In the process, we gravely worsened the environment of a fragile region. The U.S. government wanted a permanent base in the Middle East, a staging area to attack Iran, and a wholesale corporate raid of a resource rich nation.
The Iraq War was an economic catastrophe. With a lifetime total cost of $6 trillion, the war’s current estimated cost is $2.4 trillion. For the cost of an illegal and unjust war that ended so many lives, what might we have bought instead? By contemporary estimates, a nationwide Medicare for All plan would cost $1.4 trillion a year. A free college and trade school program would cost $70 billion a year. Had we not invaded Iraq, we could have educated hundreds of millions of U.S. Americans and improved the health of so many more. Instead of funneling taxpayer funds to corrupt multinational defense companies and local warlords, we could have improved the lives of our neighbors. Instead, our nation festers under the twin plagues of militarism and neoliberalism. We hear that we cannot afford any improvements to our quality of life or to our communities because, as we see from all the evidence before us, it was more important to take $6 trillion and set it ablaze in the deserts of a country that we tried and failed to conquer.
The invasion was a moral catastrophe and an act of unabashed opportunistic aggression that has killed an estimated half-million people and destroyed the lives of many more, due to the tragic lack of preparations made for the war’s aftermath. The U.S. military’s overwhelming firepower killed innocent people, and its strategic incompetence killed even more. The war should never have happened.
On the memorial of this day of outstanding shame, let us sound the call to our comrades across the planet: we must never again allow this to happen. Fight imperialism at every turn, reject U.S. American empire, refuse to allow the war machine to move forward another inch. Never again another Iraq War. Never again another human catastrophe, another limitless shame, another mass killing, another bonfire incinerating all the possibilities of a better world.
DSA Veterans Working Group