PARIS – Nearly nine years after it began, the American intervention in Iraq ended this week. This war was a disaster.

The last soldiers have left, 500 men from the 1st Cavalry Division of the 3rd Brigade. They leave Iraq in poor condition, with many years still needed before the country gets back on the path to stability. And it will likely be even more years than that before the image of the United States can be restored in the region.

Nobody regrets the end of Saddam Hussein, one of the Middle East's bloodiest tyrants. The man who was chased from power by the American intervention in 2003 was responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who -- thanks to him -- had been plunged into years of wars both at home and abroad. Scattered across Iraq are common graves containing tens of thousands of bodies -- mass graves left over from the dark days of the Saddam era.

But the Iraqis didn't free themselves from Saddam's tyranny. The United States did not involve them in their intervention. There were no brigades of free Iraqis accompanying American troops when they entered Baghdad in April 2003. It was a foreign force invading the country that bunkered the American proconsuls who would go on to govern.

Iraq was deprived of part of its history.

From the very beginning of the tragedy, it was all wrong – not least the reasons given by George W. Bush for embarking on the adventure. Iraq had nothing to do either with al-Qaeda nor the September 11, 2001 attacks. The regime, drained after years of embargo, did not have arsenals containing weapons of mass destruction. Crazy too was the Promethean pretention that America could somehow Humvee its Jeffersonian democracy to the shores of the Tigris.

Connection to 2008 crash

Bush's war caused the death of some 100,000 Iraqis and 4,500 U.S. soldiers. Iraq has become a bit more democratic; it is freer. The country is governed by a pro-Iranian party constituted of majority Arab Shiites that marginalizes the Sunnite minority while the Kurds live in quasi-independence. Violence is endemic. One Iraqi in four lives in misery. The middle class has fled abroad. The status of women has regressed. And oil production has not yet reached pre-war levels.

The war cost the United States $750 billion. Mr. Bush didn't want to finance it by imposing a special tax, so he increased the nation's debt instead. The resulting destabilization of American public finances was part of what sparked the 2008 crisis.

Finally: the Iraq war used up resources necessary for the engagement in Afghanistan. So it is largely responsible for the deadlock of that other conflict.

What a huge waste.

Read the original article in French

Photo – Andrew Ciscel