Not so long ago, this country (and this blog) was obsessed with the Iraq war. If we had spent a fraction of time we spent debating non-existent WMDs worrying about credit default swaps, we'd be in much better shape today. More than 5,000 Americans died in this war; up to a hundred thousand Iraqis died in one of the most incompetent occupations in history. The cost of this war is at the very least $1 trillion. It is almost over. And yet we are too busy focusing on domestic partisan politics to assess the greatest foreign policy error since Vietnam.
The neocons are unrepentant. But examine two facts on the ground. The first is that the violence from al Qaeda type cells is still endemic:
The violence touched nearly every region of the country, except for Kurdistan, and appeared to be aimed at security forces in both Sunni and Shiite areas.
In all, there were 37 attacks, more than double the daily average this year, nearing the level of violence at the height of the sectarian conflict here in 2006 and 2007. The attacks included 11 car bombs, 19 improvised explosive devices and 2 suicide bombers.
Over 300 were wounded and close to 70 people died. Remember that al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before we invaded it. Meanwhile, we have new evidence of how regime change in Iraq has affected the region as a whole. It has empowered Iran and is now helping Assad. The Shia bonds have created a new Shiite crescent from Tehran to Damascus:
“The unrest in Syria has exacerbated the old sectarian divides in Iraq because the Shiite leaders have grown close to Assad and the Sunnis identify with the people,” said Joost Hiltermann, the International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for the Middle East.
He added: “Maliki is very reliant on Iran for his power and Iran is backing Syria all the way. The Iranians and the Syrians were all critical to bringing him to power a year ago and keeping him in power so he finds himself in a difficult position.”
Doug Mataconis asks:
Why The Heck Did We Go To War Again?
A good question, no? And one worth asking now – before another round of amnesia sets in.
(Photo: An Iraqi man inspects damages at the Mar Afram Syriac Orthodox Church following an explosion in the northern city of Kirkuk on August 15, 2011 as a series of nationwide attacks hit the country. At least 41 people were killed and 90 wounded in a spate of violence across Iraq, just months ahead of a pullout of US forces. by Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images.)