The war has cost close to $1 trillion so far. Guess who’s paying for it?
Earlier this week more than 60 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad as they stood in a long line waiting to apply for jobs in the Iraqi military.
There was sick logic to the attack. The jobs queue was long because unemployment in Iraq is anywhere from 30 to 68 percent, depending on whose figures you believe. Unemployment is sky-high because Iraq remains a battleground more than seven years after the U.S. invaded and occupied it, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and creating hundreds of billions of dollars of debt that has been passed on to U.S. taxpayers.
The suicide bombing was like an exclamation point on remarks made last week by Iraqi Lt. Gen. Babakir Zebari, who thinks it would take another decade before Iraqi forces could operate without help from U.S. forces.
Except that the U.S. literally can’t afford more war in Iraq, where ethnic and religious divisions run even deeper now than when the war began, and where the only real winners have been the corporations that made billions contracting with the U.S. government to supply goods and services and mercenaries for the war effort.
The rationale for the war was based on lies invented by the Bush administration, as was the rationale for maintaining a military presence after Saddam Hussein was overthrown. We had to end the factional unrest and stabilize the government, Bush said.
Iraq is still unstable, so it’s no surprise that the Obama administration, which was stuck with Bush’s mess, is ducking the question of future U.S. military involvement. Much has been made of the departure of the last American combat brigade, but who knows what next year will bring?
The fact is that taxpayer money will continue to prop up Iraq’s dysfunctional government and fund the 50,000 troops who will remain in Iraq in 2011 as “advise and assist brigades,” which means they will become fighting units if and when the situation calls for it. We’ll also be funding thousands of U.S. contractors — that means mercenaries — who will be hired to protect American diplomats from insurgent attacks, which are likely to begin to increase again now that most of our uniformed forces have been redeployed.
The money problems don’t end there. Barack Obama is as gung-ho about the pointless Afghanistan war as George W. Bush was, so billions in tax dollars are being spent there even as our military involvement in Iraq is winding down. And billions more are being spent to prop up the corrupt regime in Pakistan, and to keep Israel from attacking Iran.
Meanwhile the situation in America grows dimmer, with the federal deficit worsening, stimulus money drying up and applications for unemployment benefits on the rise again.
The folly of wasting huge sums on unnecessary wars becomes clearer by the day. The costs of Iraq alone will top out at more than $3 trillion. And yet few people in government are talking about bringing military spending in line with the realities of our rapidly weakening economy.
Bottom line: The war that matters is the war to cut American trade and budget deficits, and we are losing it, partly because of insupportable military spending. China and other East Asian countries are clobbering us without firing a shot.
Quotable: From British historian Tony Judt, who died Aug. 6 — “… the United States today is the only advanced democracy where public figures glorify and exalt the military, a sentiment familiar in Europe before 1945 but quite unknown today.”