Sixteen years ago today, the United States of America shattered a country smack-dab in the middle of the most turbulent region in the world—resulting in over a quarter of a million deaths—-destabilizing the Middle East even further, and creating repercussions that reverberate to this day. For example, ISIS began as al-Qaeda in Iraq. Our murderous folly of empire in Iraq is still shaping the world as you read this, and will likely continue to do so for the rest of millennials’ lives. The Washington Post put the grim reality of our war of choice in perspective:
We can put that into the context of the U.S. population, which was more than 10 times as large at the outset of the war.
2004: 4.5 out of every 10,000 Iraqis killed. Equivalent to 130,000 American deaths — the population of McKinney, Tex., in 2010.
2005: 6.1 out of every 10,000 Iraqis killed. Equivalent to 181,000 American deaths — like eliminating Tallahassee.
2006: 10.7 out of every 10,000 Iraqis. Equivalent to 318,000 American deaths — the population of St. Louis.
2007: 9.2 out of every 10,000 Iraqis. Equivalent to 277,000 American deaths — the population of Newark.
[Iraq Body Count’s] estimates may also be low.
This was a decision by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their close circle of advisers. The disaster they created was not a surprise, as Dick Cheney predicted in 1994:
Well, just as it’s important, I think, for a president to know when to commit U.S. forces to combat, it’s also important to know when not to commit U.S. forces to combat. I think for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire.
If you can take down the central government in Iraq, you can easily see pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have in the West. Part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim* — fought over for eight years.
*In 2018, the United States closed its embassy in Basra, one of the Easternmost cities in Iraq, because of threats from Iranian-backed militias.
And yet, come 2003, Dick Cheney pushed ahead with this “literal quagmire” while conveniently handing $7 billion no-bid government Iraqi oil contracts to the company where he was just CEO. The Iraqi War was one big war crime, and in a just world, its architects would be living in a small jail cell in the Hague. One of these architects, George W. Bush’s former Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, launched into an ahistorical tirade on Twitter trying to defend the indefensible the day before the 16th anniversary of the Iraq War. Here are the best tweets dunking on Fleischer’s lies—reminding us what an egregious atrocity the Iraq War really was and continues to be.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.