Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. Former president George W. Bush justified the 2003 invasion on the grounds that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. That assertion proved to be incorrect, as did the administration’s initial prediction of a brief conflict. The third-longest war in U.S. history has claimed the lives of at least 190,000 people — including 4,488 U.S. service members and 134,000 Iraqi civilians — and has cost more than $2 trillion, according to a new Brown University study. We look back at the Iraq invasion and discuss the legacy of the war.

Show Highlights

Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of books including "Ending the U.S. War in Afghanistan: A Primer"
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior correspondent for The Washington Post and author of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" and "Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan"
Thomas Donnelly, director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of books including "Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields" and "Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Strategic Assessment"

  • colinvgallagher

    How many of the lies that were told to the American people – that the war would be a “cakewalk”, that our soldiers would be greeted as “liberators”, and that the invasion “would pay for itself” will be trotted out again by the neoconservatives for the invasion and occupation of Iran? Shouldn’t the cost of the past experience in Iraq have taught us that military force should never be an option in place of negotiations with other regimes in the Middle East that the U.S. and Israel don’t get along with?

  • James R

    Ten years ago today I took an extra 30 minute coffee break from my back office job at Wells Fargo to stand with the war protesters who had shut down 1st and Market Streets. When I returned to my cube my colleague Bob said don’t worry because this Iraq war will be like Operation Desert Storm. Five weeks earlier my letter to President Bush stated a war in Iraq will not stop terrorism only fuel it.

    The question Forum should be asking today is what were your thoughts leading up to the Iraq war? I LOL when I saw the three TV debates because the leader of the “go to war side” was the editor of Vanity Fair. Since when is the editor of Vanity Fair an expect on going to war? The best free speech coverage prior to war was CSPAN, but how many Americans watch CSPAN?

  • Gracchus

    What a total waste of time, lives, and resources Iraq has been. And for what, so that Halliburton can make obscene profits, and some KBR goons can rape some innocent American women? The USA is now officially corrupt to the core. To understand Iraq you have to understand 9/11, which after all was the justification for Iraq and Afghanistan. You have to ask about 9/11 and Iraq cui bono: Who profited? It was overwhelmingly the military industrial complex that profited, and all evidence (which excludes mere media spin) points to the military industrial complex having perpetrated 9/11, with the assistance of the FBI, CIA, and that disgusting traitor Dîck Cheney. It was an all hands on deck operation, as was the build-up to Iraq. And the number of people and companies who got rich off of 9/11 and Iraq is huge.

    • Mark

      I love US. However, it’s going in wrong directions. The 16 tilliollions deficit from
      war and bailing out wall-street.

      1. Companies are more powerful than US government. (Loss the balance of power)
      2. Unregulated lobbies (3.5 billion form finance, insurance and real estate,and many others) make US gov serve for powerful companies lile ExxonMobil and in wall-street not US citizens. (Result in 10-billion sponsors in oil which has
      made record high revenue.)
      3. Younger generation is paying high college tuition at this expense. (100% tuition hike in University of Ca. UC now is taking more and more foreign students.)
      4. Company exploits overseas outsourcing and declines to educate US students.
      5. More than 90% of Bush’s tax cut benefits goes to the very rich.

      I hope I can train local younger engineers one day. Those problems have to be solved for the brighter future of US.

    • Curious

      Democrats all supported it and Joe Biden was pushing for it long before Bush became president.

      • Gracchus

        Many people don’t know, Joe Biden helped write the precursor law to the Patriot Act.

  • thucy

    As someone who survived 9/11 in New York (and all the media bull and terrifying, bigoted harrassment of my Muslim neighbors that followed) and who lost a military friend in the bizarre and incompetent occupations that followed, I add my tired voice to those who say: “Not in my name.”
    Forum staff: Thank you for this important segment. Even though only a very very small percentage of our country serves in our “volunteer” army, we cannot ignore how they are being abused in these bizarre and unfathomably expensive military “actions” that destroy so many innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    I just watched “Why We Fight”, Eugene Jarecki’s award-winning documentary on the military industrial complex post-9/11. It is eye-opening. I’m pleased to see that Michael Krasny will be interviewing Jarecki’s friend David Simon live in SF later this spring. This is the kind of worthy media the country needs, and you deserve our praise and thanks.

  • johnqeniac

    What should we remember about the attack on Iraq?

    In all of the retrospectives at this tenth anniversary of the U.S. attack on Iraq, the focus is on memories of those who survived, whether Iraqis, US soldiers, etc, but nothing (certainly not on NPR) about the fact that it was totally unnecessary. The half million lives lost. The $ 3-6 trillion blown. The destruction of the functionality of a country. The crippling of a country for the indefinite future. The further destabilization of the Mideast. The pre-emptive unprovoked attack, invasion, and occupation of Iraq that continues til this day. All, all, totally unnecessary. All justified by the abject lies, recklessness, and criminal negligence of Dick Cheney, George Bush, Tony Blair, Little Donny Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Karl Rove, Wolfowitz, and the lot of them. All enabled by the gutlessness, complicity, and enthusiastic childish flippancy of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. press. And the total failure of the educated ‘intelligentsia’ to openly denounce the marketing of the invasion in the 18 months leading up to the attack. This is the most important thing to remember, so that there might be even a small chance that the next insane war of lies can be aborted before it happens. It is important to remember on this anniversary that not a single one, not a single one, of the perpetrators of this catastrophe, has ever been held accountable in the slightest – let alone punished. They have remained defiant, unrepentant, and even contemptuous of efforts to hold them accountable. Their careers have soared. They have made millions. The animal Tony Blair has outrageously – infamously – stated that he would do it all over again, ‘knowing what I know now’. If you consider, by comparison, that in a case, for example, of an airline accident, even one where no one has been harmed in the slightest, nevertheless a thorough, months or years-long investigation is undertaken as a matter of course, and if any negligence – even unintentional negligence – is deemed to have been shown by a pilot or mechanic, he can be tried and imprisoned. On the other hand, for the ruling class, it does not matter how many people are killed, how many millions of lives destroyed, in the pursuit of whatever worthless or nefarious goals motivate these animals, they are never, ever, ever, ever held accountable. It is the same spirit as that which guided the ever-subservient Barack Obama in rewarding of the finance industry barons for recklessly and criminally destroying the world’s economy.

    We must remember that no member of the U.S. press has ever apologized for mindlessly and even enthusiastically, disgustingly, embedding themselves with the government, let alone committed themselves to legitimate journalism instead of sycophancy. In the words of Inspector Brockett, in the movie “The Ruling Class”, “They have shown us what ‘noblesse oblige’ really means.” They have learned absolutely nothing whatsoever from their shameful behavior, but rather these same miserable excuses for ‘journalists’ now incredibly do their best to legitimize the case for a pre-emptive, unprovoked attack on Iran. Nor has the intelligentsia shown any interest in skepticism about the duplicitous arguments for an attack on Iran – still apparently content once again to be spectators, if not cheerleaders, to events.

    These, these, are the most important things to remember on this tenth anniversary of the infamous U.S. attack on Iraq. For, if these are not the things uppermost in our minds then we condemn ourselves to reliving this stupidity and tragedy in another reckless attack, which will generate an equal number of stories of woe and pain.

    Please remember what needs desperately to be remembered.

    Gregory Slater

  • SFArchitect

    $2 trillion and still a mess? Seems like a good argument for targeted assassination, since the removal of Saddam Hussein is the only positive result that most can agree with.

    • thucy

      the problem with targeted assassination, or at least the impractical side to that supposedly practical solution, is that China, say, or fill-in-the-blank country could just as easily determine that a targeted assassination of a US leader is “necessary” – and China’s drones may be more sophisticated than ours in a year or so… or perhaps they already are.
      Here’s a suggestion: let’s just not involve ourselves in other countries’ business. We’re not any good wt it. Everybody is yelling at the new Pope for complicity in Argentina’s “dirty war” but the CIA was far more complicit, and most of us turn a blind eye to that, which is weird because we actually directlyfund the CIA with our tax dollars

  • Chemist150

    Don’t forget the reason Saddam invaded Kuwait was because the British and French oil companies were slant drilling into Iraqi oil fields from Kuwait after they rebranded themselves due to being kicked out of Iraq when they nationalized oil. Saddam was protecting the natural resources of Iraq. The history is quite clear but differs from US “media”. Now, BP and Exxon have large stakes once again in the key oil field in question….. There was only one reason the US was there.

    Sure they had weapons of mass destruction that the US sold them but they’d been destroyed or used on Iran in the 1980 Iran-Iraq war because the British were still upset they couldn’t take 80% of the oil profits from Iran when the 50 year contract ended in 1979.

    The US hands are covered in bloody oil.

  • Guest

    When Collin Powell presented his case to UN, no one believed him, and yet, our congress believed that story. I am sure they were worried more about the next election and how the refusal to invade will be used to portray them as weak on foreign policy. The countries that did join us were there only for financial gains.

  • I still remember vividly the morning General Colin Powell gave the presentation making the case for the war. I was livid! This stank to me and it was obvious to me that it was a justification for and action that had other concealed underlying motives. Thank you for following up the subject with your program. It should not be forgotten and the lessons be learned for the future. Can you elaborate on accountability?

  • Jon Gold

    Why hasn’t Bush been tried for war crimes!? He acted alone in my understanding and in my mind is responsible and should be prosecuted! Just because he was the Executor Chief, he used his order and it was obviously WRONG!

    • Curious

      You and your mind are, of course, incorrect.

  • thucy

    Phyllis Bennis makes a great point that “incompetence is not the point” – human rights are. She’s fiercely intelligent, pointed, and ethical.
    But while I admire her point, I think every American who had to accept the “inevitability” of the invasion and had to watch their partners shipped off to Iraq and/or Afghanistan or supplemental base in Africa, has good reason to be furious about the incompetence, because that characteristic is what we continue to deal with directly.

    • erictremont

      Ms. Bennis and other folks on the progressive Left would have more moral credibility if they had complained as much about Saddam’s human rights violations as they did about, say, Pinochet.

      • thucy

        You might have credibility if you acknowledged that our government funded Saddam’s abuse – for YEARS.
        By the way, if you’re so pro-invasion, did you even serve during the occupation?
        Ms. Bennis has real-world credibility, and was clear to condemn both parties’ support for invasion.



    • thucy

      I’m personally glad they had him as a guest, because if we don’t understand the AEI’s point of view, how can we analyze what went wrong?

    • erictremont

      Sir, were you as enraged anytime prior to 2003 when Saddam’s regime was imprisoning and torturing thousands of political dissents, dropping chemical weapons on the Kurds, or waging an insane war against Iran that resulted in more than half a million deaths? Just curious.

      • thucy

        As Ted Koppel jokes, “How do we know Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons? We still have the receipts!”
        Seriously, Eric, we were afraid of the chem weapons that we arranged for Saddam to have. This has been reported in NYTimes, WaPo, LA Times, etc. So yeah, we should all be outraged… but not merely at Saddam Hussein. We should be outraged that our tax dollars secretly funded his killing of Kurds, etc. BTW, in rhe Iran-Iraq War you refer to, whose side was our gov’t on?

        • erictremont

          Both the Carter and Reagan administrations supported Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war. One could argue that the fact that the U.S. helped Saddam build his arsenal created a moral obligation for the U.S. to rectify this shameful error by removing him from power.

          • thucy

            “One could argue that the fact that the U.S. helped Saddam build his arsenal created a moral obligation for the U.S. to rectify this shameful error by removing him”
            One could argue that chickenhawks are eagles, but it ain’t the case.

      • EIDALM

        Sadam Husien was a bad guy but the magnitude of the killing and destruction that resulted from the Neocons bloody wars that all were based on lies far exceeds the the harm done by Sadam….Millions were murdered countries were destroyed, The American economy was ruined and there no defense to that bloody war any way in the world

        • thucy

          not just “a” bad guy, but “our” bad guy:
          from wiki:
          “Support to Iraq was given via technological aid, intelligence, the sale of dual-use and military equipment, satellite intelligence, and chemical weapons. The Americans and the British also either blocked or watered down UN resolutions that condemned Iraq for using chemical weapons against the Iranians and their own Kurdish citizens.”

  • Bob Fry

    Dumbya’s Iraq war was motivated by several ideas, but one not stated here was his desire to be better than his father. I’m convinced that Dumbya had and has an inferiority complex and has always wanted to show his father he’s worthy. Hence, no interest in more creative solutions to Saddam, or the UN data, and an easy sales job by Cheney et al.

    • thucy

      the Oedipal complex is miniscule compared to the role the military-industrial complex played. See Eugene Jarecki’s “Why We Fight” documentary for a dissection of Cheney’s profit through MIC.

  • Noman Mirza

    What about Reagan supporting Saddam during Iran-Iraq war?

  • Chris OConnell

    What is shocking and saddening is that Barack Obama is apparently the only person in his Cabinet who opposed the war. All the others supported this ill-advised and illegal war. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice, John Kerry, even Chuck Hagel.

    The world is upside down!! In Washington, those who opposed the disastrous folly of a war were punished and marginalized while those who supported it were rewarded even in a Democratic Administration!

    Welcome to the Empire of the United States of America. Going down fast but clawing and kicking the whole way.

    • thucy

      If your point is that Obama utterly betrayed his stated ideals – then, yes, you are correct!

      Look at the Obama admin’s hypocritical prosecution of whistleblower John Kiriakou. Or activist Aaron Swartz.

      Obama is no hero, either.

  • Curious

    Biden on Meet the Press in 2007, on Hussein’s WMDs: “Well, the point is, it turned out they didn’t, but everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them. He catalogued — they catalogued them. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream. This was, in fact, catalogued.”

  • Curious

    “I will be
    voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force–
    if necessary– to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal
    of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our

    – Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

    • thucy

      I don’t know your politics, but your point is valid. Too many view the Iraq invasion as a partisan issue, when the truth is that very few Democrats stood up against this.
      There’s some real kabuki theater going on in DC. But the underlying reality is that very little has changed from the point of view of the military-industrial complex. Democratic pols and GOP pols do not represent the very real needs of constituents.
      Don’t even get me started on pro-war votes of “liberal” Feinstein.

    • Chris OConnell

      Yes, that was lame of Kerry who was looking at the Presidency in 2004. But in his defense, the key words are “IF NECESSARY.” So Kerry gave Bush a power that Bush abused. War was not necessary!!

  • Curious

    Yes, it was all Bush – except it wasn’t.

    In 1998 Saddam Hussein insisted that international weapons inspectors stop work and leave Iraq. In response, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act, making regime change in Iraq the policy of the United States government and approving nearly $100 million to fund Iraqi opposition groups working for Saddam’s ouster.

    There was bipartisan support for the operation. Sen. Joe Biden, writing in The Washington Post two months before the strikes, noted the limitation of any policy that left Saddam in power. “Ultimately, as long as Saddam Hussein is at the helm, no inspectors can guarantee that they have rooted out the entirety of Saddam Hussein’s weapons program,” he wrote, and he observed that “the only way to remove Saddam is a massive military effort, led by the United States.”

    • thucy

      Andrew Bacevich has written extensively on the reality that if the MIC wants war, it gets war, regardless of party in power. He’s pretty persuasive on this topic, and was featured as an Iraq War critic on today’s “Talk of The Nation.” Unfortunately, few local Democratic pols will admit this.
      But Democratic reps also have blame – we need real representation, not this two-party kabuki.

    • Chris OConnell

      I was there. I paid attention. This was Bush’s war. You can cite Biden, you can cite (either) Clinton, you can cite Kerry etc. But had any one of them been President, or had the man truly elected President in 2000 been in office, there would have been no war with Iraq.

      The Iraq war was fully a George W. Bush product. Bush’s Chief of Staff said that you roll these marketing campaigns out after Labor Day. And that’s what they did. This had the benefit of coming less than 1 year after September 11th and just before the Congressional elections.

  • Curious

    Worse was Obama’s unconstitutional attack on Libya.

    • thucy

      Okay, I’ll take your bait. How, EXACTLY, was it worse? 1) Was it more expensive? 2) Was it more deadly? Why be so cryptic, unless you’re merely trying to be provocative for the sake of being provocative?

      • Chris OConnell

        It was worse at absolutely giving the middle finger to Congress. George Bush, while manipulatively marketing his March to War after Labor Day and before the 2002 elections, at least went to Congress for consent.

        Obama not only ignored the Congressional will against acting in Libya, he completely defied the War Powers Act as well. The Audacity of War is all we are left with.

        • thucy

          Okay, Chris, I sincerely appreciate the answer.

          • Chris OConnell

            Thank you, too. In the big scheme of things, our involvement in Libya was a mere fraction of the disaster that Iraq was. In Libya, most of the world was begging us to get involved. In Iraq, they were begging us not to go to war. The casualties, the destruction, the cost, etc. was so many orders of magnitude worse in Iraq. The judgment in leading and executing Iraq was a total disaster while Libya was rather smartly executed.

            My gripe is a War Powers constitutional issue. Only Congress can declare war. The real problem with Libya is the ever-growing usurpation of the War Powers in the Executive Branch, (Secondly, Kadhafi was the enemy of Islamic radicals and they have gained great strength with his fall so that’s not good.)

  • James R

    One dimension not discussed in Forum or included in Brown University’s two trillion dollar estimate is the additional cost from the Afghanistan War. In the Winter of 2002 Green Beret special forces were removed from Afghanistan to get ready for Iraq. Afghanistan became our red-headed stepchild when victory was inevitable. Without Operation Iraqi Freedom the Afghanistan War would not be our longest war. How do estimate that cost?

    On this 10th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom for anyone wanting to understand what happened I suggest Frontline’s “The Dark Side”. It was part one of a four part series.

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