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Wed, Mar 19th - 10:46AM

The Iraq War fiasco, five years later

When U.S. President George W. Bush launched Stealth bombers at Saddam Hussein's regime on March 19, 2003, five years ago today, roughly 60 per cent of Americans backed the war. Most were convinced Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Most believed he had ties to Osama bin Laden, their 9/11 nemesis. And most felt sure Iraqi democracy would rise phoenix-like and strong from the cinders.

Those certainties have long since been exploded. In the twilight of the failed Bush presidency Americans are left contemplating a ruinous $3 trillion bill for a war former defence secretary Don Rumsfeld once haughtily predicted would cost $60 billion. Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have died. And U.S. credibility internationally has suffered a devastating blow. Iraqis, meanwhile, mourn 151,000 violent deaths by their own government's estimate, as they struggle amid "tears and blood" to patch together the broken political pieces, rebuild a civil administration and economy, bring home millions of refugees, and fend off a stubborn insurgency and civil war.

Despite the fears the Bush administration fanned at the United Nations before attacking Iraq, there never was a pressing need for war, beyond Bush's demand for "regime change" in an "axis of evil" state. And most Canadians and much of the world knew it. The UN inspectors were right. Saddam had long since given up his nuclear, biological and chemical ambitions. Nor did he have the ties Washington claimed with the 9/11 attackers, who were from Saudi Arabia for the most part.

While Iraq's new democracy led by President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is incomparably better than Saddam's murderous Baathist autocracy, it is also fractious, unstable and weak. It has yet to agree on laws to hold Kurdish, Sunni and Shia regions together in some kind of federation, or on a plan to fairly divvy up Iraq's oil revenues. Many Iraqis now live in mortal fear of a U.S. military pullout, anarchy, and the breakup of their nation. If they break up into smaller countries they will undoubtably run into problems with corruption, fiscal mismanagement and possibly become training grounds for terrorist groups.

As leading U.S. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton recognize, the Iraq war has also been a costly distraction from the effort to repair Afghanistan after decades of Soviet occupation, civil war and Taliban misrule, which included playing host to Al Qaeda. President Hamid Karzai presides over a democratically elected but desperately weak government, with insufficient military forces to preserve order. Bin Laden is still on the loose. And the Taliban remain a threat. Meanwhile, 157,000 U.S. troops are too busy in Iraq to help in Afghanistan.

When the history of Bush's years in the White House is written, the accidental president of 2000 will get due credit for rallying a shaken nation after 9/11 and for confronting Al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts. But Bush will be remembered as well as the president who scare-mongered Americans into a debacle in Iraq that sapped their nation's psyche and treasury, eroded its political and moral credibility, and misdirected resources that were needed in Afghanistan to fight terror. Bush's attack on Iraq defined a failed presidency.

And five years later today Americans are still tallying the cost.

Bush should have used the 157,000 troops currently stationed in Iraq to eliminate the terrorist threat in Afghanistan first and given weapons inspectors ample time to determine whether there was any need to attack Iraq.


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Wed, Mar 19th - 9:25AM

Oil prices fall below $108 a barrel
Oil prices fell below $108 a barrel for the first time in awhile. On Monday, oil hit a record trading high for a front-month futures contract at $111.80.

But according to
Platts Chief Economist Larry G. Chorn, this is only a temporary lull.

The rate reduction by the Federal Reserve "could result in oil prices rising to the $112 to $115 (a barrel) range over the course of the next weeks, assuming the other (Group of 10 industrial nations') central banks hold their rates constant," Chorn wrote.

Oil prices are expected to soar to $120 to $150 during the summer driving period.

Learn more at Hundred Dollar Oil.

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