In 1992 after the end of the first Gulf War, then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney explained the rationale for not invading Iraq after liberating Kuwait.
"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?"
Wait for it, because he will answer his own question.
"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."
Prescient, ain't it?
In 2003, prior to the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was given 48 hours to leave, or risk starting a war.
Apparently a war started, so he must not have left, and that's just irresponsible.
Except that, according to a recently released transcript of a meeting with George Bush and Spanish president Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, Hussein was willing to leave.
Not without conditions, mind you, but willing to leave nonetheless.
" [H]e's indicated that he's willing to go into exile if they let him take $1 billion and all the information that he wants about the weapons of mass destruction."
That bit about weapons of mass destruction might have been a sticking point, but there's no indication negotiations for Hussein's exile were ever started.
To recap, so you don't have to read this from the beginning again, Vice President Cheney knew an invasion of Iraq would be something more than complicated from his previous experience and assessment in the first Gulf War; President George W Bush knew Hussein wanted to go into exile to save his own skin and coincidentally pre-empt an invasion. And, in case you missed it, Bush and Cheney led an invasion anyway.
At the bottom of the page is a link to the Iraq Body Count website, there you are presented with a graph showing the number of Iraqi civilian casualties due to violence that could be documented. To be absolutely clear: the numbers are not estimated.
If you have time, peruse the site so their methodology is clear, and then examine the graph of civilian deaths from violence. You will notice the largest spike is at the start of the war in 2003.
In other words, the largest spike in civilian casualties due to violence that could be documented was not due to sectarian violence, a civil war or even the possible hand of Iran, but directly related to the invasion. In spite of all the smart bombs.
The largest spike of civilian deaths in a war which has claimed over 82, 000 documented civilian deaths was during an invasion that could have been prevented by spending a billion dollars and some time at a negotiating table.
Iraq Body Count
El Pais the news organization that broke the story of the meeting between Bush and Anzar (in Spanish)
The New York Review of Books provides an English translation of the transcript of the Crawford, Texas meeting
Seattle Post-Intelligencer with their 2004 story of Cheney's assessment of an Iraq invasion
YouTube video of Cheney explaining his assessment in 1992