Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten Years Gone, The Real Costs Of War

There are days when it all seems to be too much.

We're not just talking about the massive pile of news stories that came pouring in like a flood as this week began. The CPAC recap. The GOP "autopsy" of why they failed in 2012. The banking debacle in Cyprus. The Stubenville rape trial verdict. The media failing to ethically cover the Stuebenville trial. Hillary Clinton announcing her support for same sex marriage. The majority of Americans - nearly six in ten - agreeing with Hillary Clinton on same sex marriage. The release of the Lyndon Johnson tapes that revealed the 1968 "October Surprise," where Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon sabotaged Johnson's peace deal to end the Vietnam War, four days before the election.

Did you miss that last one? You're not the only one. Millions of Americans did. Which is, sadly, the problem.

Americans have purposely ignored the fact that at least two American presidents in the last fifty years have lied us into war. Now, it's been revealed that a presidential candidate actively sabotaged peace in order to prolong the Vietnam war and guarantee his election to the Presidency.

These are the real costs of mad men's dreams - and of the laziness and denial that keep us all from preventing those dreams from becoming reality.

As we stated in our commentary on December 19, 2011, the day after the Iraq War officially ended, 4,474 Americans died in America's war of choice in Iraq. The numbers of American deaths related to PTSD and other post-battlefield trauma are unknown, though estimates range from a few more thousand Americans, to potentially as many as 10,000 Americans dying as a result of the Iraq War. As we noted in that commentary, the estimated Iraqi deaths from that conflict - both military and civilian - range from 60,000 to one million.

The final cost of war operations in Iraq is estimated to be $800 to $900 billion, when all is said and done. Because we're not entirely done in Iraq yet. We still have 220 American service members at the American consulate in Iraq, in what used to be the Green Zone. In practical dollars, the estimates of the total cost of George and Dick's misadventure in Iraq will eventually end up somewhere between $1.7 and $6 trillion dollars.

Those cost figures are staggering, but in the end, those numbers only represent money. The lives that were lost unnecessarily in Iraq can't possibly be counted in dollars and cents. The Iraq war also cost us lives in Afghanistan, since Iraq was a diversion from our original goal of destroying the leaders of Al-Qaeda.

As we said back in 2011, at the end of the war, "No matter how the final tally is collected, we know the cost of the Iraq War was too high."

President Eisenhower warned us all about the creeping danger of the military industrial complex, and he was right to do so. But, sadly, we didn't listen to him any more than we're likely to listen to the warnings of modern scholars.

It's true that there's no one universal solution to ending our macabre American fascination with perpetual war. There are several things that would help, though. Yes, Americans have to pay attention to our politics more. We also can't allow just a small number of our fellow citizens to fight any future wars we might get involved in. Drastically cutting down the size and cost of our military would help America too. Paying attention to the advice of those who've deeply studied why we go to war would also help greatly.

Most importantly, though, we need to remember that the real cost of war is not measured in dollars and cents, but in the numbers of our fellow Americans unnecessarily and senselessly gone.