Iraq After the War

June 25th, 2013

The Iraq war remains a complex and debated event in history – and an ongoing one. Here are some stark numbers that help to put some of it into context.

As a result of my dabblings in history I know one certain thing: You always need the lens of time to truly understand an event or epoch in human history. Standing too close to the moment it’s impossible to disregard emotions and pierce propaganda – it takes distance. That’s why people are still writing about events that occurred centuries ago: With every passing year it’s actually brought into better focus.

The Iraq War of the early 21st century that took Saddam Hussein out of power remains controversial, and only now, ten years later, are we beginning to bring some aspects of it into clear focus. I recently did some reading about the war and came away with some numbers which tell a story – I’ll present them here without any political skew.

The Human Cost

Whatever else you might say about the war – it’s necessity or lack thereof, its goals and actual consequences – the one indisputable fact is that it was devastating to the nation and people of Iraq. The total deaths of military personnel in Iraq (coalition forces) to date is under 5,000 – a terrible number, of course. However, the total number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war and the ongoing violence between the Sunni and Shiite sects is estimated at 134,000. 134,000 people who were just going about their lives, trying to survive.

And of the people who travelled to Iraq to investigate, cover, and report – the journalists – there have been 231 deaths to date. This makes the Iraq war the bloodiest conflict for journalists in history – and that’s a history that includes two World Wars.

And finally, nearly 1.5 million Iraqis have fled the country and sought refuge in other countries – many taking to Syria, where they now find themselves in the midst of yet another violent civil war.

The Infrastructure Cost

Iraq was a country that struggled with infrastructure and poverty before the war. Ten years of conflict has taken a stark toll on the living conditions and standards of the country. The United States has spent nearly $2 trillion dollars on the project so far, which includes the active military cost and the money spent trying to rebuild.

Unfortunately, priorities are a bit out of whack. Between 2005 and 2012, for example, the U.S. sold $35 billion in military gear and services to the new government of Iraq. Compare that number to the $8 million set aside to rebuild Iraq universities. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the sheer amount of waste and mismanagement that has seen billions of dollars simply vanish into the air.