During Gen. David Petraeus’ testimony this week, the anti-war movement tried their best to exaggerate the costs of security in Iraq. They trotted out Joseph Stiglitz who peddled admittedly inaccurate war cost estimates topping out at $5 trillion (or $3 trillion or $2 trillion … depending on how Stiglitz was feeling that day). Completely ignored by the MoveOn.org crowd are both the costs of leaving Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime in power and the potential costs of a rapid withdrawal along the lines promised by Barack Obama.

Looking back, a 2006 study on the costs of not invading Iraq show leaving Hussein in power would have cost as much as $700 billion dollars. Liberals like to portray the choice in 2003 as either invasion or … actually they never say. Sure liberals love to point out that WMDs were never found in Iraq, but they always fail to mention how that happened. Before 2003 the United States, pursued a policy of containment authorized by the United Nations Security Council. Major elements of the policy included economic sanctions on Iraq, disarmament requirements, weapons inspections, Northern and Southern no-fly zones within Iraq, and maritime interdiction to enforce trade restrictions. The Moveon/Stiglitz crowd pretend these policies were costless. They weren’t. Hussein used U.S. sanctions to fuel hatred of Americans claiming they killed millions of Iraqi children.

Looking froward, Democrats are even more dishonest about costs. Obama is particularly vague about his policy for the region. Recently a policy paper by a key Obama foreign policy adviser surfaced that called for as many as 80,000 troops to stay in Iraq. The campaign quickly disavowed the memo but refused to offer any details about what kind of post-withdrawal force Obama would leave behind. Instead, Obama hides behind a vague promise of some type of “strike force … perhaps in Iraq and perhaps in the region.” If so many lives weren’t at stake this sci-fi “strike force” invocation would be funny. Jennifer Rubin writes in Human Events:

Depending on the mission a “strike force” can be anything from a Navy SEAL platoon charged with rescuing a single hostage to several brigades involving thousands of people. If, for example, the mission is to put down a revolt in a major city like Basra a “strike force” would need to include intelligence forces both locally and outside the area, Predator unmanned airborne platforms and other unmanned spy equipment and personnel to operate them, and forces on the ground needed to secure a city of up to a million people.

In Somalia, for example, we painfully learned the lesson that special operations forces without support (both human and material), a clearly defined mission and a firm political commitment become, as they did in the infamous “Blackhawk Down” incident, sitting ducks for the enemy. What happens if al Qaeda or militia forces undertake to capture some our all of the Obama Strike Force? Maginnis says, “Nothing stops that. It brings you back to Mogadishu.”

So either Obama is promising the American people a continued troop presence whose costs are not that different than the existing strategy, or he wants to turn Baghdad into the next Mogadishu.