Major General Jeffrey Buchanan Discusses his Experiences in Iraq

News | May 14, 2012

Speaking at the EastWest Institute’s New York City headquarters, Major General Jeffrey Buchanan provided an off-the-record consultation on his experiences as a member of the U.S. military in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.

His last post as part of the United States Forces—Iraq was as Director of Strategic Effects. In this capacity, he coordinated and implemented political, economic and communications activities on behalf of USF-I.

Though he could not be quoted directly, Buchanan offered a statement on his time in the country as well as his expectations for Iraq’s future:


As the USF-I Spokesman from 2010-2011, one of the most frequent questions I got was: “Was it worth it?”  I think that’s the wrong question because it’s such an individual question, and the answer depends entirely on an individual perspective.  I think that the more appropriate question is: ”Was it worthwhile?” The problem with that question is that I think it’s too early to properly answer it.  I think that it will take another five or ten years before we really know whether it was worthwhile or not.

The Iraqis now have a tremendous set of opportunities that they never had in the past. They have the opportunity to choose their own form of government, and for the first time in their history, the people have a real voice in their future. They have an opportunity to rejoin the region, and in a larger sense, all of the nations of the world. From that perspective, they can move from the isolated position they occupied in 2003—from that as an oppressive force to their neighbors—to a neighbor who helps solve rather than create problems.  They have an opportunity to develop and modernize their economy and use their resources for the betterment of all Iraqis, rather than to funnel those funds only to a corrupt political party.  They have the opportunity to have security forces that serve and protect the people and safeguard democracy rather than the Saddam’s forces who oppressed, gassed, and murdered their own citizens by the thousands.  The people also have the freedom to express themselves and demonstrate when they see injustice or a failure of the Iraqi systems, a right they never had in the past.

Perhaps most importantly, they now live in a growing democracy and have the real freedom to choose.  We don’t know, however, what choices they will make.  The positive changes in the growth of democratic values, maturation of the political process, the growth of industry and the economy, and the increase of security I’ve seen over the last nine years all combine to make me optimistic for the future.  The Iraqi people do not yet have what they deserve, but I think they’re headed in the right direction and I’m very hopeful about the future.  I don’t think we can really say whether it was all worthwhile, though, until we see what choices they make.

Lastly, I don’t think that any of us should forget about the incredible sacrifices made by both the Iraqi and American people to bring all of these changes, and in fact, opportunities, into reality.  The cost has been high and I hope that none of us ever forget that cost.  The best way that we can honor all of that sacrifice is to continue to make choices that are good for both Iraq and the United States.