WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- One month shy of three years into the Iraq war is a good time to take stock of the situation. Is the world better off today after U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003? Is Iraq better off? Are the United States any safer? Are its allies in Europe and elsewhere more secure?
The toll in human lives is a heavy one: more than 100,000 Iraqis killed according to a 2004 study by Lancet, the British medical journal. Other sources place the toll higher, at 250,000. However, more conservative estimates are provided by Iraqbodycount.org, an independent London-based non-profit volunteer organization. They offer two sets of numbers: a high of 32,041 and a low of 28,427. Either way, it's a lot of bodies.
And the Pentagon's tally of killed U.S. military personnel, as of Feb. 17, stands at 2,275 and 16,742 wounded. That's an average of 2.07 Americans killed and 15 wounded every day since the start of the war three years ago. What can we say has been accomplished in return?
On the positive side, Saddam Hussein has been overthrown and his despotic regime neutralized. His two sons, Uday and Qusay, who showed potential for even greater ruthlessness than their father, were eliminated. Saddam was captured and is standing trial for a fraction of his crimes, although he is making a mockery of the court proceedings.
Democracy came knocking at Iraq's door which was edged ajar, but risks of civil war persist. But then so did terrorism come knocking, except it kicked the door wide open.
Judge what Daniel Jordan, an instructor at Ventura College, and Neil Wollman, a senior fellow at the Peace Studies Institute and a professor of psychology at Manchester College, Indiana, have to say in an article titled "Pandora's Box Opened in Iraq: Looking Backward, Forward, And Beyond." They give a good summary of what has gone wrong in Iraq during the last three years.
Poverty, they say, has risen by 20 percent. They cite a United Nations report indicating that childhood malnutrition has doubled. They quote a Minority Rights Group International report citing "Iraq as the country where minority rights are most under threat."
Frequent conversations with members of the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq confirm that minorities, such as the Assyrians and Turkmen, are being harassed and discriminated against.
As in all countries where violence persists, the brain drain of professionals emigrating in large numbers impacts the future of the nation. Kidnappings have become common currency -- where anyone with money is liable to be detained and exchanged for money. And that does not only apply to foreigners. Iraqis, too, are being kidnapped. Typically, this is a clear indication of rising unemployment, poverty and desperation in a country. Particularly in a country where large numbers of former soldiers have been demobilized.
"Iraq," say Jordan and Wollman, "is a deadly mess."
And this mess is affecting the rest of the world. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), the U.S. invasion of Iraq has benefited al-Qaida. Large numbers of recruits have joined up to fight the U.S. military presence in Iraq. "Iraq is now a breeding ground for terrorism," say Jordan and Wollman.
"The U.S. sponsored National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism counted 3,991 global terrorist attacks in 2005, up 51 percent from 2,639 in 2004," states the report, which goes on to say: "Ironically, a war intended to produce freedom has, according to Amnesty International, lead to an increase in worldwide human rights violations. Tyrants can legitimately argue that since the United States waged pre-emptive war, so can they."
Never has American foreign policy suffered as much as it does now. "Our reputation is at an all time low," states the paper. And rarely has hatred in the Arab/Islamic world been so vehemently directed at the United States.
Additionally, a number of scandals have tarnished the image of the United States. Images of prisoners tortured and abused at the infamous Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad were so horrid and shocking that anyone who has seen them will forever remember them. And from the Guantanamo detention camps, from where no images were released, but stories of equal, if not greater nightmares, are beginning to emerge.
Anyone who dares to question authority is immediately labeled a terrorist, say Jordan and Wollman. As for the cost of the Iraq expedition, the two researchers place it around $2 trillion. To make it easier to understand what that translates to for the average taxpayer, it's about $6,800 dollars for every U.S. citizen.
Faced with an increase in global and local terrorism, high body counts and spiralling war costs can we, three years on, say that the Iraq War was worth it?
(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com)