Keep Iraq in mind in weighing Syria strike

Another 80-plus people were killed in Iraq Wednesday, adding to a death toll of thousands just since April. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the U.S. strategy to pacify that country was a dismal, bloody, expensive failure.

Much of the violence seems to involve battles among Sunni and Shiite religious factions. Their fighting has reached its bloodiest point since 2008, and many fear it will revert to its 2006-07 peak.

After toppling the late Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime in Iraq, U.S. officials set about the ambitious task of installing what they hoped – and at times bragged – would be a peaceful, democratic culture. But their efforts were tainted from the start since the public justification of the U.S.’s March 2003 invasion was based on false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ready to use.

More than 100,000 people were killed there over the next six years, according to The Associated Press; other groups’ counts are higher. Of those, nearly 4,500 were American soldiers. Tens of thousands of others were wounded, some maimed severely for life.

The U.S. poured billions of dollars into Iraq – and the flow of money has not stopped.

Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq came when that country’s new rulers said they were ready to run the country on their own, without outside military help. Clearly, they were wrong.

Violence is increasing in Iraq. There have been discussions among that nation’s leaders about asking for renewed U.S. military involvement. As matters stand, that should not be considered. There is no reason to believe a more effective long-term strategy of pacifying Iraq has been devised.

U.S. involvement in Iraq seems to have changed little, if anything. Going back would merely waste more American dollars – and lives.

Our nation’s leaders should keep Iraq in mind as they prepare military strikes for Syria. It’s hard to fight fire with fire, to stop violence with violence, but even if we do beat aggressive dictators like Saddam and Bashar Assad into submission, what then? The aftermath is often worse.