When asked last November whether the United States was winning the war in Iraq, a defiant President Bush responded, “Absolutely, we’re winning.”
When asked the same question in a December interview with the Washington Post, President Bush had a different response, “We’re not winning, we’re not losing.”
What a difference a month can make.
While most Americans might be tempted to agree with half of President Bush’s statement, namely the “We’re not winning” part, I am prepared to defend it in its entirety.
Given the gulf between expectations for the Iraq war and the actual on-the-ground situation, one can readily conclude that Americans are neither wining nor losing because the war in Iraq has already been lost.
From its inception in the war-planning stages to the way it has been carried out, the Iraq war has been defined by a series of ill-informed policy decisions and a less than honest executive branch with exceptionally poor diplomatic abilities.
In what marks perhaps the first sign that the Iraq war was going to be a failure, the Bush administration proved incapable of garnering international support – with the exception of a meager coalition, in which the United States would provide 90 percent of the troops.
On the home front, the Bush administration was overzealous in its efforts to sell an illegitimate war to a vulnerable American public, for whom the tragedy of Sept. 11 was still fresh in mind.
Through the use of deception and fear tactics, the Bush administration was able to convince most Americans of the need to preemptively attack Iraq.
To date, all of the initial reasons given for engagement in Iraq have proven to be fallacious. Assertions by the Bush administration that Iraq had WMDs, which posed a grave and imminent threat, have been reduced to mere hallucinations.
Moreover, accusations that Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda were discredited by the September 11 commission, which reported that there was not a “collaborative relationship” between the two parties.
Another justification for the war was that Iraq would be a launching pad for democracy in the Middle East. Ironically, however, the Iraq war has had the opposite effect – the region has experienced a resurgence in Islamic activism and anti-American sentiments have reached new record highs in the broader Muslim world.
There have been few, if any, success stories in Iraq. Even the execution of Saddam Hussein was botched and actually inflamed sectarian violence, as the New York Times recently reported.
Financially, the war has also drained the economy. Back in 2002, White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Lindsey was chastised by the Bush administration for suggesting that the war might cost $100 billion to $200 billion.
Today, that figure is miniscule. As MSNBC.com reports, the war could end up costing up to $2 trillion.
The most tragic aspect of the Iraq war is not its financial costs, however, but its human cost. The Department of Defense has identified 3,012 Americans among those who have died since the initiation of the conflict, a figure that exceeds the casualties of Sept. 11.
When covering the human cost of the war, the media often only makes mention of American casualties. However, Iraqi lives matter just as much as American ones and we should all be aware that this foreign policy blunder has translated to an estimated 600,000 Iraqi deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In addition, the United Nation estimates that 2 million Iraqis have sought refuge in other countries and 1.7 million are displaced within Iraq.
In a nutshell, Iraq has slipped into a civil war, there is documentation of genocide taking place, Iran’s position in the Middle East has been elevated, American national security has been compromised with a sweeping global surge of anti-American sentiments, and, to cap it off, the nightmare is far from over.
History has reserved a special place for the Iraq war, right next to another famous US foreign policy misadventure – Vietnam.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.