March 20th marks the 7th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.   The day before, a 26-year old soldier from Milwaukee,  Robert Rieckhoff — father of an 8-year old son and a 4-year old daughter — was killed in Iraq after a rocket-propelled grenade hit the watchtower where he was on guard duty.

Today, the US still has 96,000 troops stationed in Iraq — about the number as in March 2003. (In the interim, more than 2 million American troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan).

It is still costing the US taxpayer around $7 billion per month for us to be in Iraq.  To date, we have spent close to $1 trillion in upfront out-of-pocket costs — but the war will cost at least $2 trillion more, when we include the cost of  paying for veterans disability compensation, veterans health care, replacement of armaments, and damage to the US economy.  Oil prices were $23 barrel when we invaded Iraq — they are now close to $80 barrel,  and have reached $130 barrel at their peak.

Since 2003, more than 4385 US troops have died, 315 coalition troops, and 100,000 or more Iraqis, depending on how you count.   More than 80,000 Americans have been wounded, injured or contracted a disease that required them to be evacuated from the war zone.

Of the 1 million Americans who have served and returned home as veterans, more than 40% have applied for disability compensation and been treated at VA medical facilities.  Numerous peer-reviewed medical studies have reported that there is an  “epidemic” of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and also an epidemic  of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) among troops returning from combat.

The situation in Iraq remains unstable.  Of the more than 2 million Iraqis who fled the country during the civil war,  fewer than 15% have returned.  Tension remains high among the Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish populations, and the country still suffers from frequent suicide bombings, kidnappings and other violent crimes.

The US media has been largely focused on the health care vote and has given little coverage to the situation in Iraq as the US passes into the 8th year of military engagement.


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