Monday, August 8, 2011

Cost of War

Months before President George Bush allowed the U.S. military to invade Iraq, people gathered in homes and libraries to talk about whether we should go to war. The concern was sometimes raised that the war would be expensive for the U.S., although that was generally not the major objection voiced by those who went on to protest against the war. The anti-war community was mainly concerned with the killing, not the cost. The enormous cost of the war was only occasionally raised during the public debate, in an attempt to convince Republicans that war was a bad idea. Because they seemed unconcerned about the destruction and loss of life, it was hoped that, being Republicans, they might respond to an argument that the war would cost them money.

As we all know, Republicans put aside their usual concerns about fiscal responsibility and endorsed the war, saying that we should kill no matter the cost. That was the way President Bush handled the war, keeping it out of the federal budget, and it was how the Congress funded it, with no limits. As we all now know, the war was so expensive that it was a major cause of the extended economic slump that the country is now in. Billions and trillions of dollars spent blowing things up and occupying foreign lands eventually added up to billions and trillions of dollars that couldn't be spent here in the U.S. on homes and roads and public services and jobs.

Now, all of a sudden, some in the Republican party, pushed by the Tea Party regressives, are talking about how much the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya are costing. They are even saying we should remove our troops and stop the wars. Not a word from them about the killing, but plenty of concern about how expensive the killing has gotten. They are asking what we are getting and what we are fighting for, and forgetting that when anti-war Americans asked these questions they labeled us as traitors and cowards.

Those of us who have been speaking out against the wars welcome the newcomers, hopeful that their well-rested voices will increase the political pressure to stop the killing. We are hopeful that they will work alongside us toward this important goal, even though they have been so insistent in the past that we have nothing to teach them and that we should not be listened to. So far there is no evidence, though, that a coalition is forming. All that has emerged is two groups seeking the same goal but for different reasons and acting independently of one another.

It is understandable that the leaders of the regressives would not want much discussion between their followers and the anti-war folks, even though the latter have years of experience working in this realm which the regressives could benefit from. If the two groups got to know each other's ideas, each might learn from the other. The regressives would learn that human life is sacred and should be valued above all else. It should not be sacrificed for corporate profits or to insure the flow of oil or to give the US military more bases overseas. What would the anti-war folks learn from the regressives? That money is the only thing that matters, and that when the economy improves we can start more wars because we will be able to afford them? It is understandable that the leaders of the regressives would fear that one message would be more powerful than the other.

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