It is hard to exaggerate the scale of the disaster that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair, Powell, et al. unleashed. Between 2003 and 2011, according to a 2015 study by a team of academic researchers from the United States, Canada, and Iraq, the war and its aftermath caused almost half a million deaths among Iraqis and people who fled the country. Not all these fatalities were the result of gunshots or explosions—they were also due to ingesting contaminated water, or conflict-related stress, or the fact that hospitals had been overburdened or destroyed. But they were still deaths that could have been avoided if the invasion hadn’t taken place, the researchers concluded.
That is just the toll on Iraq. Close to seven thousand members of the American military have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, in overthrowing Saddam and then failing to pacify Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition ended up destabilizing the entire region, with tragic consequences that are still playing out in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, and lots of other places. To be sure, the Iraq invasion didn’t create Islamic extremism or the Sunni-Shiite schism. However, as I noted in 2014, as isis cemented its grip on Mosul, the invasion “opened Pandora’s Box.” Which brings us back to Trump.
I link to this piece not because it’s interesting (it is), but because I want folks to read it, stop for a second, and then consider that it represents just one issue—one multi-faceted, complex, wide-ranging, issue—in a universe of issues that, come the end of January, Donald Trump will now be in charge of making the final decision on.