During the January 24, 2012 State of the Union address Barack Obama said: “Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought — and several thousand gave their lives.”
That was the end of Mr. Obama’s reference to Iraq. Why didn’t we hear what should have come next – what the U.S. accomplished through its enormous sacrifice of blood and money during both the Bush and Obama administrations?
4,800 American servicepeople died and nearly 32,000 were wounded in Iraq, many grievously. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the long-term price tag for the Iraq war is $1.9 trillion. It would be reasonable to expect concrete, tangible and permanent results to recoup our losses in Iraq. Moreover, we believe that President Obama had a duty to those who served and the American public to tell us what concrete results were achieved through our sacrifices in Iraq.
Because President Obama left out this information, here are the results based solely on information that is publicly available: very little. Yes, we toppled Saddam Hussein, installed a democracy and fruitlessly searched the country for weapons of mass destruction. But we disengaged from Iraq without concluding so much as a permanent security or defense cooperation agreement. On November 17, 2008 the U.S. and Iraq signed a “Strategic Framework Agreement” that provides for ongoing cultural, economic and limited security cooperation. This isn’t a permanent security or friendship agreement. Either country can withdraw from the SFA with one year’s notice.
You may be wondering if the U.S. even attempted to negotiate an agreement on Iraqi oil concessions, as Iraq has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. All indications are that it did not, as almost all oil production contracts to date have been awarded to non-U.S. firms. The fact that oil service and drilling companies like Halliburton may gain new contracts will return only a few dollars, if any, to the U.S. Treasury.
We’re not suggesting that American forces fought and sacrificed for nothing. But, at a minimum, we should not have disengaged from Iraq without a long-term security agreement and some agreements on preferential treatment for U.S. companies. Was it reasonable to expect that of the $1.8 trillion spent, much of this sum would eventually be recouped? We think it was, but that money isn’t coming back now.
Donald Trump is correct when he says that U.S. Government officials are often very poor negotiators, and this is one of many such examples. The Iraq War started, of course, during the Bush Administration and the Bush Administration shares responsibility for this outcome.
UPDATE – JANUARY 30, 2012 – IT SEEMS OUR POST ABOVE IS ALL TOO ACCURATE
Irbil, Iraq (CNN) — Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has lashed out at Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, predicting that Iraq could soon return to widespread sectarian violence that could require the return of U.S. forces. “What sort of Iraq we are talking about?” he asked. “How the Americans will feel proud? How the American administration is going to justify to the taxpayer the billion of dollars that has been spent and at the end of the day the American saying, ‘Sorry, we have no leverage even to put things in order in Iraq’?…..The future of Iraq is grim.”