Iraq War Anniversary: 4 Worst Long-Term Impacts Of the U.S. Invasion


When the Iraq War began on March 20, 2003, no one imagined that it would last as long as it did, nor did anyone foresee the lasting impact it would have upon American society and worldwide public opinion of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. invaded Iraq in the name of getting rid of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, weapons that, as it turned out, didn't exist. However, while the war officially ended on December 15, 2011, the costs of the war are still felt by American citizens today. Here is a brief look at the lasting impacts of the Iraq War, 10 years after it began.

1. The war has claimed 190,000 lives, over 70% of which were civilian deaths:

Before I begin, it’s important to note that the statistics of the casualties of the Iraqi war vary greatly between sources, whether it is WikiLeaks, Al-Arabiya, The Huffington Post or the Associated Press.  However, according to a study released by Brown University on Thursday illustrating the costs of the Iraq War, the death toll is often underestimated, and the estimate is closer to 134,000 civilians killed during the war. The remaining 56,000 included 4,488 U.S. service members and 3,400 U.S. contractors.

2. The war ultimately cost taxpayers over $2.2 trillion:

Again, while the reports of the cost of the war vary across sources, Brown University’s Costs of War study, led by 30 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists from 15 universities, the UN, and other organizations, asserts that the war cost taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. However, because the cost of the war was funded through borrowing, the war could cost taxpayers upwards of $3.9 trillion with cumulative interest through 2053. This cost includes $500 billion for care for injured veterans in the war. Additionally, the $60 billion within this cost that was set aside for reconstruction in Iraq has not gone to its intended purpose, but instead has gone primarily to the military and the police. 

3. The true number of U.S. and allied forces that were injured is estimated at 218,000:

The study cited by Brown University asserts that while the Department of Defense puts the official total of U.S. casualties at 100,000, the number is much higher due to incidences of PTSD that are reported, diagnosed, and treated only after the injured are returned home. Therefore, the study reports that the true number of U.S. and allied casualties is (conservatively) estimated at around 218,000.

4. 25-33% of all troops deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan have depression or PTSD:

The Congressional Budget Office has asserted that one in four veterans treated at the Veterans Health Administration were diagnosed with either PTSD or PTSD and traumatic brain injury. According to data collected by Veterans for Common Sense, about 247,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were treated at a VA facility for PTSD. The organization also reported that mental illness is the number one cause of hospitalization for active-duty troops.

They say that hindsight is 20/20; therefore, we cannot surely say that we would have done better in the shoes of the Bush administration. However, when we look at the statistics above, despite the wide disparity between sources, it is clear that the war has left a lasting impact on American society. Moreover, when we consider this great disparity in the statistics and the uncertainty regarding the true "numbers" of the war, we need to ask ourselves: what can be done to prevent another policy failure like this from happening again?