It's not an anniversary that inspires public ceremonies or reflection, though it should. Ten years ago, the United States launched the Iraq War, an invasion that cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars and squandered this nation's worldwide leadership.
American troops left a year ago, but the war lingers in countless ways. Wounded veterans need help. Military spending deepened a national debt that totals $15 trillion. Iraq remains a fragile and violent place. The terrorist scourge, nominally the cause of the war, endures.
A Gallup poll out this week found that barely half the nation, some 53 percent, think the war was a mistake, down from 63 percent five years ago. No one likes to dwell on the bad memories, it seems.
Recalling the reasons for the war should remind Americans how unfounded the cause was. There was no Iraqi connection to al-Qaida as President George W. Bush's team suggested. Nor were there weapons of mass destruction as intelligence experts predicted. Finally, the Middle East didn't embrace democracy after the U.S. invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. The Arab Spring uprisings, which came years later, didn't feature posters or chants praising American troops sweeping into Baghdad.
If the Iraq War seems like ancient history, think again. The experience undercuts American resolve to end the slaughter in Syria. The overboard cost of the Iraqi conflict deepens this country's financial future. The decision to invade, made with minimal support from a handful of allies, will strain this country's stature for years.
If anything, the Iraq War produced yet another cautionary tale on the limits of military power.
San Francisco Chronicle