We now know how wrong they were. A new report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University tallies up the costs: nearly 4,500 U.S. troop fatalities, more than $1.7 trillion spent, and another $490 billion owed. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed in the sectarian bloodletting that occurred after the collapse of Saddam’s regime exceed 130,000. Millions were displaced, many still have not returned to their homes. The Iraqi Christian community has been decimated.
The war’s benefits are few, and could have been obtained by other means. The demise of a brutal dictator is a result worth celebrating, but the imperfect and fragile government that has emerged in Iraq was hardly worth the costs incurred. As for U.S. security, war boosters declared that Saddam Hussein was actively developing nuclear weapons. Equally important, they asserted that he would use them, or give them to terrorists who would. War skeptics pointed out that this was unlikely, and they also identified crucial holes in the evidence of Saddam’s nuclear program.