President Bush and Cheney defend the Iraq war on the Fifth anniversary of its launch; Iraq war costs go over $600 b; McCain: American withdrawal would increase Iranian influence
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  • On the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war on March 19, US President George Bush defended the decision to launch the war and its present conduct, asserting that this was a fight “America can and must win1.” Even as the death toll of US soldiers crossed the 4,000 mark, other members of the Bush administration including Vice-President Dick Cheney, on a visit to Iraq, stated that the invasion was a ‘successful endeavour’ and termed the security gains as ‘dramatic’2.

    President Bush also rejected the calls of Democratic Presidential candidates for an early troop withdrawal from the country, insisting that a retreat from Iraq would embolden the Al Qaeda and Iran. Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain, visiting Iraq as part of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee fact-finding committee, also applauded the troop surge and its effect on the overall security situation3. Later speaking in Amman, Jordan, Senator McCain asserted that an American withdrawal from Iraq would increase Iranian influence in the region as well as increase American security challenges4.

    Reports also noted that the Iraq war had now cost the US over $600 b and that the long-term costs of the war could reach $2-$4 trillion5. UNHCR reported that over 2.5 million Iraqis had been internally displaced since the 2003 US invasion and that over 2 million were refugees in Syria and Jordan6. UNHCR also noted that Iraqis constituted the maximum number of people seeking asylum in other countries, with Russia, China, Serbia, and Pakistan being the other countries contributing the maximum number of people to the list of asylum seekers.

    Meanwhile, domestic efforts at reconciliation also faltered with the boycott by the Sunni Arab Accordance Front and the Shi'ite bloc led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr of a reconciliation conference in Baghdad during the week that was opened by Prime Minister Maliki7. These groups continued to be unhappy with their share of government positions as well as their say in security matters.