Denial on the Euphrates

02/03/2014 09:36 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2014

I read with consternation an article on page 13 of the 31 January issue of the Wall Street Journal by Stephen J. Hadley, the National Security Advisor in the Administration of George W. Bush. The headline was: "Americans Can Be Proud of What Was Achieved in Iraq." The Iraq war -- what Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in a previous incarnation, characterized as "[a] misstep [that] will play out to be the most dangerous and costly foreign policy debacle in our nation's history" -- has now been spun out by this former White House official as instead a triumph.

Essentially what has changed in Iraq since the American invasion of 2003 is that minority Sunni rule has been replaced by majority Shiite rule, with the latter exhibiting all the winner-take-all behavior that is characteristic in that part of the world. In addition, sectarian killing has returned in force with the departure of American troops at the end of 2011. But most palpably, the legacy of the Iraq War has been the 4,486 American soldiers killed, the many more wounded, and the many thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians killed. All this for a war that was conceived on an erroneous assessment that Saddam Hussein was in possession of nuclear weapons.

It is true, as Hadley points out, that a brutal dictator (Saddam) has gone, and that Al Qaeda's resurgence doesn't change that fact. But was it worth all the American blood and treasure, and the many more numerous Iraqi casualties? One can only conclude that some of the officials involved remain in a state of denial; and whatever revisionist arguments are put forward, the judgment of the future on the Iraq War will only be harsh.