Iraq, Afghanistan: Was it worth it?

This chart was taken from The American Prospect. Double click to view.

The United States armed forces did the world a favor by ridding it of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  The question is: At what price in American lives, treasure and liberties, and in the lives of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries?

Saddam Hussein was a cruel tyrant.  He combined the totalitarian control of a Stalin with the cruelty of a Caligula or Nero.  One of the things he did was to promulgate a law to punish those who spoke disrespectfully of him and his sons by cutting out their tongues.  Amnesty International in an annual report on Iraq reported on non-verbal interviews with people whose tongues had been cut out.

Click on Tales of the Tyrant for a 2002 sketch of Saddam Hussein in power by Mark Bowden in The Atlantic.

Osama bin Laden was a ruthless terrorist. One of the things he did was order Al Qaeda to murder the respected Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud a few days before the 9/11 attacks.  Massound was a leader of Afghan resistance to the Soviets, an opponent of the Taliban and a devout Sunni Muslim devoted to the teachings of the Sufi mystic Al-Ghazzali.  Bin Laden foresaw that the United States would invade Afghanistan, and he did not wish there to be any credible alternative to the Taliban.

Click on The crimes of Al Qaeda terrorism for my earlier post on Al Qaeda’s record.

Researchers at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University estimate that 225,000 people have died as a result of those wars, including 6,051 American troops and at least 137,000 Iraqi and Afghan civilians.  Click on Costs of War for the study, the basis of the chart above.

As for myself, my thinking about Afghanistan and Iraq went through the same stages as my thinking about the Vietnam Conflict.

  • This is a noble cause.
  • This is a noble cause, but serious mistakes are being made.
  • Serious mistakes have been made, and it is too late to make things right.
  • The whole war was a mistake to begin with.

Click on Solidarity Squandered for a memoir by Rick Perlstein in The American Prospect about the trust Americans felt in their government in 2001 and how that trust was abused.

Even if it wasn’t a mistake to begin with, it is time to wind the wars down now.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan have both said they want U.S. forces out of their country, and our government should heed what they say.

[9/13/11]  The chief video link in this post died, and I rearranged the remaining material.

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4 Responses to “Iraq, Afghanistan: Was it worth it?”

  1. CM Says:

    CM reblogged this from The Deliberate Observer.


  2. Art History X Says:

    I read your article on Islamic Architecture and the Twin Towers, but comments were closed… just wanted to bring your attention to an article I just posted on Islamic Architectural Style (just click my name and follow the link to my blog). I actually posted it after seeing your article (despite reading ur blog quite often), but I think that looking at it, a lot more was similar to the twin towers… you could consider them even as minarets, true there were no domes, bright colors, or open spaces… but maybe #10 also kinda matches… as they were a wonder from the outside as well as the inside.


  3. Art History X Says:

    Wow, thanks! I saw your recent article on 9-11. A very interesting perspective.


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