Today marks the 10-year anniversary of our second invasion of Iraq, and the questions that were never answered about our nearly nine-year occupation are no longer being asked. Americans, our allies, and the Iraqi people are still owed an honest answer from the leaders who created the war and kept us in it: why were we there?
Hundreds of thousands of Americans protested at the start of the war, but bombing inevitably began on March 19, 2003. The next day U.S. and British forces drove through a breach in the high berm dividing Kuwait from Iraq. I entered as part of the invasion force sent to disarm Iraq. Colin Powell told the U.N. that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was linked to 9/11.
Rumsfeld said we would be done within a few months at a cost of around $50 billion. Paul Wolfowitz said Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenue. Dick Cheney said we would be greeted as liberators. President Bush declared an end to major combat operations 44 days later under a banner that read “Mission Accomplished.” We were not briefed on a post-hostilities plan, and even Saddam Hussein managed to evade capture for another seven months.
Iraq was to be made a democracy, by force, but I quickly felt our ideological irrelevance. Saddam’s state fell apart into tribal factions, religious sects, and ethnic divisions under our cosmetic stewardship. The country murdered and looted itself as we watched, hopelessly ignorant of causality and cure. We spent the early years telling Iraqis who they couldn’t be but never deeply sought an understanding of who they already were. A strange symbiotic bond formed between us; their increasing dependency on our resources justifying our continued occupation.