It was sold as a cakewalk—”skip in, skip out,” Chris Matthews said Tuesday night on Hardball. But 10 years later, the cost of the Iraq war have become a cautionary lesson for history. A new report from Brown University examines the real costs of the war—a jarring dose of reality for those who believed the war could be won on the cheap in lives and in treasure.
The report reveals that 190,000 lives have been lost due to the war—70% of them, Iraqi civilians—and has cost the United States $2.2 trillion—44 times higher than what the U.S. Office of Management and Budget estimated back in 2002 before the war began.
The Iraq war was intended, as Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle told the Washington Post in 2002, to be a “modest effort” to help the Iraqis attain freedom, but the real intentions of the war have been revealed to be more complicated than that. ”This was going to be our next stage in exorcising the demons from Vietnam,” BuzzFeed‘s Michael Hastings told Matthews on Hardball. “People were thinking more Gulf War I than Vietnam, and anyone who brought up at the time, ‘Hey, this could turn out to be Vietnam’ was literally laughed aside and was considered not credible.”
Iraq war veteran Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, agreed that there was a disconnect to the realities of war at the time of the invasion. “A million veterans, including myself, served in Iraq and are now home. We all know there was a shortage of planning on the ground in Iraq: they didn’t have enough interpreters, they didn’t have enough body armor, they didn’t have enough Humvees,” Rieckhoff said. “But there’s a shortage now on the home front as veterans are coming home. There aren’t enough paperwork processors, there aren’t enough psychiatrists, there aren’t enough counselors. So we’ve got an opportunity here to repeat the mistakes of what happened on the ground in Iraq as all these veterans come home. We’re not doing enough.”
Rieckhoff said the backlog of disability claims in the Department of Veteran Affairs amounts to nearly 900,000—many of which are from Vietnam veterans still waiting for the paperwork to be processed in order to receive disability. ”We’re not taking care of our Vietnam vets, and we’re not taking care of our Iraq and Afghanistan vets,” he said.