On the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the “shock and awe” verbal banner unfurled by the Bush administration to tout the first days of the war has new meaning.
In March 2003, President George W. Bush and his chief disciple of the Iraq excursion, Vice President Dick Cheney, were in their war-room glory as the coalition’s military might, led by America’s air and ground forces, made the earth — and Iraqis — tremble.
Here’s how CNN, which became the most watched network globally during the Iraq war, reported the attack:
“The U.S. and its allies launched a massive aerial assault against Iraq on Friday (March 21, 2003, Iraq time). At 12:15 p.m. EST, anti-aircraft fire could be seen rising in the skies above Baghdad. Within an hour, tremendous explosions began rocking the Iraqi capital, as the Pentagon announced ‘A-Day’ was underway.
“The campaign was intended to instill ‘shock and awe’ among Iraq’s leaders, and it was directed at hundreds of targets in Iraq, officials said. Plumes of fire could be seen rising above targets in Baghdad at 1:05 p.m. EST.
“The attack was not limited to Baghdad. Targets were struck in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which lies in the north of the country. And anti-aircraft fire lit up the sky over the southern city of Kirkuk as well.”
One of the goals, to topple the government of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, was achieved.
Weapons of mass destruction?
But, the primary justification provided by President Bush for the invasion of Iraq, namely, that Saddam had developed weapons of mass destruction, turned out to be false.
Thus the question a decade later: What did the invasion accomplish?
The answer lies in the new definition of “shock and awe:” The shock of seeing almost 5,000 Americans killed, thousands wounded, and many thousands of Iraqis killed and wounded; the awe of the price tag, $812 billion and counting
In addition, the promise of a democratically elected government with freedom and equal rights for all — there are three main sects, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — has also not materialized.
To be sure, the people of Iraq elected Nouri al-Maliki prime minister, but his government has failed to live up to the United States’ expectations of honest, fair governance.
Indeed, Iran’s growing influence in Iraq — al-Maliki and Iranian leaders, led by the ayatollahs, are Shiites — is cause for major concern. Iran’s refusal to end its nuclear program despite United Nations sanctions shows that the government in Tehran isn’t interested in being a good neighbor in the region.
The Bush administration assumed incorrectly that the overthrow of Saddam and the installation of a democratic government in Baghdad would make Iraq a buffer against Iranian expansionism and would serve as an example for other Arab countries governed by dictators.
Al-Maliki appears to be following in Saddam’s footsteps when it comes to dealing with his political opponents, while the so-called Arab Spring countries that got rid of their dictators are having trouble making the transition to true democracy.
Death and destruction
There were no celebrations in Iraq to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the invasion. Rather, there was death and destruction.
A group affiliated with al-Qaida claimed responsibility for bloody attacks Tuesday that killed dozens of people across the country.
“What has reached you on Tuesday was the first drop of rain, and a first phase ... that will be followed by more revenge,” the Islamic State of Iraq said in a statement posted on its website.
The terrorists said the car bombs and other explosions were to avenge executions and “massacres” of convicted Sunni inmates held in Iraqi prisons. There were nearly 20 attacks in Shiite areas in Baghdad.
Such violence is now the norm.
Although American troops are out of Iraq — President Obama kept a campaign promise and completed the withdrawal in December 2011 — thousands remain in Afghanistan.
The pullout is scheduled for 2014, but there are concerns that the Afghan security forces will not be ready to keep the Islamic extremist Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists at bay. The government of President Hamid Karzai has also proven to be less than reliable when it comes to honest governance.
Like Iraq, the war in Afghanistan has cost the United States dearly. The death toll is rising and more than $600 billion has been spent.
But unlike Iraq, there was justification for the U.S.-led coalition invading Afghanistan in late 2001: The Taliban rulers had given Osama bin Laden, the world’s leading terrorist, and his al-Qaida organization safe haven. Bid Laden set up training camps that produced most of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11. 2001, attacks on America’s homeland that killed 3,000.