TODAY   |  March 19, 2013

A decade after ‘shock and awe’ in Iraq

In the ten years since guided bombs brought “shock and awe” to Baghdad, almost 4,500 troops and 130,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed and Saddam Hussein has been captured and executed in a mission that has cost nearly $2 trillion. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> today marks the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the war in iraq , a bombardment dubbed shock and awe. richard engel covered it from the start, he's in jerusalem. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. we are in jerusalem where president obama tomorrow will begin a visit to boost relations with israel, the palestinian authority , and jordan. for the united states , the war in iraq began ten years ago, but for iraqis, it never really ended. it began on a clear night, with military precision, as guided bombs brought shock and awe to baghdad. u.s. troops charged up through the desert, and soon baghdad was falling. iraq 's oil money was supposed to pay for the war. it didn't work out that way. from now on, the war set its own agenda, an insurgency erupted that became a religious civil war . sunnis versus shiites, americans now stuck battling to keep the two sides from killing each other, and u.s. forces . iraqis acues the united states of invading to find weapons of mass destruction that were never there, and destroying a delicate religious balance. the white house stopped claiming all was well in iraq , and thousands more troops surged. the violence dropped, and americans left, nine years, almost 4,500 troops killed, 32,000 wounded, 130,000 iraqi civilians killed. the cost, according to a new study nearly $2 trillion.

>> what adds up over time or the veterans care costs with the way the economic costs sort of pile up and ripple through the decades.

>> reporter: so what was accomplished? saddam hussein was removed and democratic elections were held. they got freedom, but they still don't have security. the car bombings are back, the sunni/shiite rivalry has returned. still, many officials from the busch administration say invading iraq was even in hindsight worth it.

>> there are always things in a big, complex operation like a war one looks back on and thinks should have been done better, should have been done differently but i think that the fundamental decision that the president made to remove saddam was sound.

>> reporter: ten years later, iraq has yet to recover from the war, neither have many american veterans and their family, a war that consumed and changed our nation's foreign policy , but that few americans talk about anymore. according to a study, americans will continue to spend billions of dollars a year to care for iraq veterans.

>> richard engel thank you very