The Real Cost of War
By Kathleen Mary Andersen
Reprinted from Opinion Magazine
On April 16, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."Over 50 years later have things really changed? A website started at the beginning of the Iraqi war, www.costofwar.com ticks away at a frantic pace the estimate of what the cost of our presence in Iraq has been each minute since it started. As of June 16, 2004, the tally was running over $118 billion dollars and was originally anticipated to reach $135 billion on September 30, 2004. The product of Elias Vlanton, a computer programmer and Niko Matsakis, who spent decades researching and writing government documents and archives is based on actual government outlay of funds and the interest costs over the next 10 years. The site compares the cost of other important items in particular education and health care.
The current war chest for example could pay for 2,254,195 new teachers for our school system or could insure 50,726,662 people with health care cost per month. It was Bush himself who stated that the budget deficit this year would be 50% higher than previous forecasts. The question remains, can we afford a higher deficit since a majority of Americans believe charity begins at home. What is the truth? With signs of glowing red ink blamed on a slow economy and our fight against terrorism, when will the free fall money pit end?
How do we find the truth behind what the war in Iraq has cost us, and more importantly what it will cost our future generation? Josh Bolten, the budget director for the Bush administration stated in 2003, "We do not anticipate requesting supplemental funding during '04' ". We are"well below $50 billion for the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan". However, as changes go, in May of 2004 Bush asked for a fresh 25 billion for our occupation in Iraq. Before the war began, the White House guard dogs were let loose when anyone wanted to predict this war could cost more than $170 billion. But when Larry Lindsey, the Bush economic adviser said the war might cost between $100 and $200 billion, the White House cried "very high" and Lindsey was out of a job a few months later. The World Bank has estimated that it will take an estimated $56 billion over the next 4 years to rebuild Iraq. That is 1/7 of the US deficit. Before we start to spend another country's money perhaps we need to look at some statistics on how the Iraqi spend their own money. Some people would like to take the bulk of the oil shares to pay a large share of this debt but 72% is already slated for food, medicine and humanitarian aid. That's a conflict in the making. Iraq earns about $16 billion per year. Previously 70% of that has gone to the UN Oil for Food Program, monies Iraq still owes for the Gulf War and a bilateral debt it still owes and pays on. 3% of oil reserve is left for other needs. Bringing Iraq oil production up to speed after this war will take another 10 billion. A difference of opinion seems to be prevalent in Washington with how much the war actually will cost. While Eric Shinseki, Army Chief of staff claimed it would take several hundred thousand troops to win and keep the peace, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary shunned it. He claimed, "The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the course of the next couple of years. Is he implying that the US is looking at making Iraq's income its private coffer to pay for our military cost?Cost of Human Lives. Let's put aside dollars and cents and not ignore the loss of human lives since this war began. We could not put a dollar sign on losses to date. This is not to mention what we don't always see on the news, people whether Iraqi and our American military who have been injured. The death statistic range show 820 Americans, 60 British, 22 United Nations personnel, 10,000 Iraqi military, 10,300 Iraqi civilians, 17 journalists, 3 Russians and no French. Of 771 injury claims filed by U.S. Contractors so far this year, 345 occurred in Iraq and out of the 66 deaths, all but nine occurred in Iraq. Under Federal law, U.S. government contractors and subcontractors must obtain worker's compensation insurance for civilian employees. Could this war against terrorism make us, as Americans around the world more vulnerable to attacks, especially those living and working in other countries? Our World Credibility. What has been the cost of war in terms of our credibility with the rest of the world? The United States is at one of the lowest points in its relationship with Arab and Muslim people. Trying to change the Arab world in its thinking and mold it fit American interest has not been one of earth shaking transformation. When we face facts, the average Iraqi is not involved in acts of terrorism nor has been engaged in the resistance to U.S. occupation. What has taken from our credibility has been a lack of effective post-war administration and escalating violence. If we are going to fight a ground war, which we are, man against man, we need to have a military that is prepared to fight in a country where dying is considered a glory for the cause. This is their way of life, not ours and it is their strong religious conviction.
Democratic indifference has taken precedence with these lives we have entered. Anger towards the United States remains persuasive among Muslim countries. Hit and Run. It is an obvious dilemma that we could not start this invasion and now run off. Especially during a presidential election year. How the US handles Iraq in the months ahead will be a major test of our willingness to meet our challenge of being a superpower. Perhaps we have yet to remember the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, its withdrawal in 1989 and the empire's collapse as the defeat of the world's second superpower.
Al-Qaeda is alive and well, mutating into new forms and adapting itself with the changing operational environment as quickly as a chameleon in a bush. On the home front, the war against terrorism has created a growing concern and perception about our freedom within our own country, our loss of privacy and if the US is closing its borders to foreigners. Our military victory does not translate into the elimination of the ideology of the Arab nations. For it is but a few fundamental Islamic groups that create the breeding group in its war against the United State, not the entire Arabic society. What is the real cost of war? We need to look at all the ramifications of our invasion of another country. Did we allow ourselves and our government to spend money on a wild goose chase that still has not turned up the so called "smoking gun"? What will be the delayed tally of dollars over the next five years and the worst thought of all, how long will be adding to the already growing dollars and loss of lives for what we call the price of peace?