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Wineke: Legacy of the Iraq War?

Published On: Feb 04 2013 01:39:36 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 04 2013 01:49:26 PM CST

There was a little-noticed news report about Iraq the other day:  It said the China National Petroleum Company now produces about half the oil output of Iraq.

China, the report continued, is also in negotiations to purchase Exxon Mobil’s interests in Iraq and has long-term goals of buying up to 80 percent of Iraq’s oil exports.

One can understand why China would want to do that.  China needs oil.  Iraq has it. But the report did remind me that when American hawks were promoting the Iraq invasion a decade ago, some of them promised one result would be $10-a-barrel oil that would, largely, make the invasion pay for itself.

It didn’t.

Nor did the United States win the steadfast regional ally that the neo-con war promoters promised.

In fact, other news reports note that Iraq is most closely aligned with Iran, is helping the Iranian government subvert economic sanctions imposed by the West, and is helping Iran support the existing government of Syria.

Iraq is an independent nation and it has every right to look out for its own best interests.

But you do have to wonder whether our investment of some trillions of borrowed dollars, thousands of American lives, and tens of thousands of wounded Americans really represents a triumph of foreign policy.

I was thinking that last week as I watched the confirmation hearings for Chuck Hegel as President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.

Hegel’s former Republican colleagues, led by Sen. John McCain, were not only critical of Hegel, they were contemptuous of his decision to oppose the “surge” that presumably saved the American efforts in Iraq when our troops were on the  verge of losing the war.

McCain demanded Hegel recant his position and admit that McCain and fellow hawks had been correct. Hegel said he wasn’t sure the results were worth the loss of the 1,200 American lives that followed the escalation.

Both Hegel and McCain, along with Hillary Clinton and most Democrats, voted to endorse the invasion. Some of them, Hegel in this case, later changed their minds.

I don’t think we can really know who was right. But I kind of wonder if the vicious response of McCain and his colleagues isn’t more a result of a guilty conscience than it is of a basic policy difference.

That war cost us a lot. It may have been worth the price. But that judgment isn’t so self-evident that we can’t extend common courtesy to those who disagree.

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