Wednesday, March 5, 2008


To kill one man is to be guilty of a capital crime, to kill ten men is to increase the guilt ten-fold, to kill a hundred men is to increase it a hundred-fold. This the rulers of the earth all recognize and yet when it comes to the greatest crime—waging war on another state—they praise it... So as to right or wrong, the rulers of the world are in confusion.
Mo Tze, a Chinese philosopher (470-391 B.C.)

I don’t know why I had to find it in Australian newspaper first, but a friend sent me a link to a story written on February 28th. There are other articles about it now, but I think it was not by accident that I did not first read it in one of the major dailies in this country:
The Iraq war has cost the US 50-60 times more than the Bush administration predicted and was a central cause of the sub-prime banking crisis threatening the world economy, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

The former World Bank vice-president yesterday said the war had, so far, cost the US something like $US3trillion ($3.3 trillion) compared with the $US50-$US60-billion predicted in 2003.
The writer talks about the impact on the Australian economy, but also on the U.S.
Professor Stiglitz told the Chatham House think tank in London that the Bush White House was currently estimating the cost of the war at about $US500 billion, but that figure massively understated things such as the medical and welfare costs of US military servicemen.

The war was now the second-most expensive in US history after World War II and the second-longest after Vietnam, he said.

The spending on Iraq was a hidden cause of the current credit crunch because the US central bank responded to the massive financial drain of the war by flooding the American economy with cheap credit.
The U.S. media has picked up on the news, albeit a few days behind Australia. Matthew Yglesias wrote in The

If you look at something like the economic problems in Ohio right now and consider how much better that situation would look had that kind of money been invested in productive infrastructure in the US, it's pretty infuriating. Spent directly, that money would have meant jobs. But spent on something more useful than a fruitless occupation of Iraq, it would have laid the groundwork for continued prosperity. Now at best it's down the drain.
Yglesias writes how much this has played into al-Qaeda’s hands, something Obama but not McCain understands:
…in contrast to John McCain, Barack Obama "understands the direct correlation between tremendous expenditures of blood and treasury in Iraq and the US economy." Brennan points out that "al-Qaeda strategy has been to bleed the US into bankruptcy" and thus to do as McCain proposes and "continue with the same approach will have severe consequences for U.S. national security." Obviously this came out in the midst of a primary campaign, but it's hardly an Obama-specific point; rather it's one anti-war candidates of any stripe can (and should) make.
However one counts it, the cost of this war is almost beyond imagination. The National Priorities Project analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. The site has a running counter on the costs of the war in Iraq. They’ve broken down the costs:
- $275 million per day
- $4,100 per household
- Almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 60,000 wounded
- 700,000 Iraqis killed and 4 million refugees
You can even plug your town/city into the counter and see what the cost is for you where you live.

These figures do not begin to touch some of the not so hidden costs. Bob Herbert writes of Stiglitz’ testimony:

Mr. Stiglitz noted that nearly 40 percent of the 700,000 troops from the first gulf war, which lasted just a month, have become eligible for disability benefits. The current war is approaching five years in duration.

“Imagine then,” said Mr. Stiglitz, “what a war — that will almost surely involve more than 2 million troops and will almost surely last more than six or seven years — will cost. Already we are seeing large numbers of returning veterans showing up at V.A. hospitals for treatment, large numbers applying for disability and large numbers with severe psychological problems.”
However horrific the costs of this war are, I believe Norman Solomon has it right:
The only way for Democrats to challenge U.S. militarism is to condemn the Iraq war as inherently immoral.
He makes a persuasive case:
…when a war based on lies is opposed because too many Americans are dying, the implication is that it can be made right by reducing the American death toll.

When a war that flagrantly violated international law is opposed because it was badly managed, the implication is that better management could make for an acceptable war.

When the number of occupying troops is condemned as insufficient for the occupying task at hand, the White House and Pentagon may figure out how to make shrewder use of U.S. air power -- in combination with private mercenaries and Iraqis who are desperate enough for jobs that they're willing to point guns at the occupiers' enemies…

If the ultimate argument against the war is that it isn't being won, the advocates for more war will have extra incentive to show that it can be won after all.
Solomon admits that arguing that the war was and is wrong will be “a tougher sell to the savants of Capitol Hill and an array of corporate-paid journalists.” taking the political path of least resistance -- by condemning the Iraq war as unwinnable instead of inherently wrong -- more restrained foes of the war helped to prolong the occupation that has inflicted and catalyzed so much carnage. The antiwar movement is now paying a price for political shortcuts often taken in the past several years.
I think Solomon is right. The Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is, must not fall into the trap McCain set in his victory speech last night, “It doesn’t matter now how we got there…” It does matter! Obama has a better chance to make this case than Clinton, who voted for the war, but whichever one is the candidate must make it, or else we will lose, not necessarily the election, but our souls.

The eighth “lesson” in Mark Kurlansky’s little book, Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea (2006), is
People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
We need a President, administration, and people who understand this lesson.

PS: I also posted this on Daily Kos where it generated a lot of response. If you want to see the responses click here and go to the end of the article.

- Milo

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