Iraq War Costs
I don't think war should be a scorecard of lives lost versus saved. It's a lot more complex than that. (It's all future lives lost, plus justice for past lives lost), versus potential lives and liberty saved. And there's no "good way" to count. But there are ways to understand scale a little.
Some will quote numbers of Iraqi deaths at numbers like 1 Million dead using sketchy methodology by propaganda outfits (like everyone that no longer lives at the old address is "dead"). But more reasonable surveys float around ≈200K (174,000 or so to get pedantic). And still, some of those aren't bodies, just include people that just went missing. It's not surprising that in a war, some people will leave and smuggle themselves out, or join one side or the other, and not leave a forwarding address -- so these numbers are likely overly high. Still let's say 200K.
Saddam was killing an average of between 86K-114K deaths/year for his entire 22 year reign. In the early years it was his wars, in the later years it was the costs of sanctions and misdirecting the Oil-for-Food into Oil-for-Weapons. (That's not counting how many weren't born because of his wars). Some political places like Human Rights Watch, will lie and low-ball the numbers as only 250K direct deaths during his regime, by measuring only those he killed directly in non-Wars and not blame him for the sanctions he caused and so on. My view is whether Saddam killed them by his hands, or as a consequence of his policies, those people were dying either way, and we have no reason to believe they wouldn't have kept dying at the same rates, had he stayed in power. At least 50K were dying due to the sanctions, if nothing would have changed those lives still would have been lost.
I use that as a baseline for "compared to what".
So the choice wasn't Iraq-war or peace.... it was Iraq War (200K dead) and No-war, but a brutal tyrant continues to kill 100K/year. Meaning by 2005-2006 we had hit break-even and saved more lives than the war cost. (We were net positive in lives saved after that). Far more people in Iraq would be dead by now if we'd done nothing. In the decades since, millions have been saved. You won't hear that in the Press. But unless you're gullible enough to think that Saddam was no longer going to make war, and was ready to have a complete transformation, and the U.S. was going to let sanctions be lifted, all the day the war started (instead of the war) then that's the reality. Every 5-10 years at least 1M more people are alive today, because of that war. (More if you count birth rates).
And even that's low-balling what the good the war did.
Mission accomplished was valid: we ended a tyrants regime. That mission was done. That was our responsibility to the American people. Finis. American interests served. The U.S. doesn't owe them anything, they owe us for the cost of the war, and the money/lives expended trying to help them make a better life for themselves afterwards. We could have left, and sent a message to the world: if you don't comply with the terms we establish for war, we will take out your government, and then leave it to you to rebuild. That was all we HAD to do, and what most other countries have done historically. But we were just nice enough to cancel their bill, and help them rebuild instead. (You're welcome)
Every death after that, all the strife/turmoil/costs, was the because of the failure of the Iraqi people to come together and rebuild -- not the U.S. And the U.S. did more to try to help them, than they did to try to help themselves. That's on them, not us. The cost of the insurrection was not the cost of our war. Japan and Germany didn't have them after WWII for example. That was all the Iraqi people (and outsiders coming in to take advantage of them). That was a failure of the culture in the region and NOT the U.S.
The fact that the U.S. didn't leave until a Democrat took office, shows the compassion the Americans (not Democrats) have for the Iraqi's, to try to stabilize and help them rebuild.
But there were costs
Of course there's real costs to any war. Which is why you avoid them.
- Atrocities. Abu Ghraib was an example of one. Again, Saddam was doing far worse, for far longer, and to far more people -- so in context, this was an improvement -- even if the dishonest media will never tell people that. And we caught and punished the people doing it, and there was NEVER an evidence presented that these orders came from above. But still, it wasn't a good thing.
- The other claims of The U.S. targeted innocents, all came to naught. Certainly mistakes were made, but all of them had the U.S. trying not to target innocents -- but when the enemy uses innocents as human shields, collateral damage will happen.
- Guantanamo was new law and precedent. While it pissed off the hypocritical Europeans and liberals, and wasn't a good thing, the truth was while it initially spiked over 700, by the time it came to the public's attention, there were only 517 prisoners there. And by the time Bush had left office, that number had been whittled down to 242. Compared to 120,000 under FDR (and 74,000 were interned under Churchill). So in the grand scorecard, 242 captured in war, is pretty low. Before Obama.
- Halliburton was a theoretical scandal, but multiple audits left numbers disputed at ≈1% of the total costs of contracts. Not exactly huge over-billing problem there.
- The Patriot Act was a huge stink in all the papers and foreign press. They did this by ignoring how bad the other countries laws that were criticizing us were (they had things more intrusive than it). And the only thing that later became a legitimate concern, was something all the Press had missed -- and that was the NSA's abuse to track metadata on all American citizens (even though they still needed a FISA warrant to see it... they claim).