A war begins. Under what turns out to be false pretenses the president commits American troops to a foreign land in order to “remove a threat to freedom itself to both America and the whole world.” There is no formal declaration of war. Allied support is minimal. He declares “our resolve is unshakable, our strength invincible because there are great stakes in the balance.” The war begins to drag out. International opposition to our involvement grows at a steady pace. American troops move among the populace during the day and are ambushed at night by the same. They are treated as invaders, not liberators. There are no clear objectives and no way to discern when we have “won.” The full cost of the war cannot be defined says the president. The situation is too “fluid.” He tells us to be patient and that we will be required to make great sacrifices. Does this sound familiar? Thinking Iraq? Think Vietnam. The false pretense for Vietnam was the big lie known as “The Gulf of Tonkin” incident. The remarks are by President Johnson. The country we had to save from the boogeyman of the day, communism, is South Vietnam. Now for those playing at home, merely insert “weapons of mass destruction” as the false pretense, George Bush as president and Iraq as your country. It all fits. I bought it the first time around but I am not buying it this time. However, I could buy a lot for the $584 billion (adjusted for inflation) the war in Vietnam cost us. And to what end? We are snubbing our nose at history and repeating its mistake. Who can’t look back now and see that we should never have gotten involved in Vietnam? Iraq under the current pretense is exactly the same situation. Get out now. Spend the money in this country on national healthcare, housing or education. But that won’t happen. So how much is this war going to cost us? And to what end? In contrast to the first Gulf War in which about 90 percent of the cost was shared by a coalition, we are stuck with the bill for the occupation and invasion of Iraq. President Bush’s willingness to be more open to an expanded United Nations role is the first clear indication that his administration’s assertion about the cost of the war was woefully shortsighted. It was initially thought that Iraq’s oil revenue would offset most of America’s costs. It is now clear that given the wrecked Iraqi oil infrastructure and devastated economy that Iraq’s reimbursement will be virtually nonexistent. Iraqi oil revenue will only be about $20 billion in 2007. Major oil companies will be reluctant or will refuse to invest in the oil infrastructure. They will be investing only in exploration and new development. The Pentagon has put the cost of the initial invasion at about $45 billion. The military expenses are estimated at about $1 billion per week. Assuming a three-year occupation that is a tidy $200 billion. This does not account for the billions that will be needed for the repair of the Iraqi infrastructure. This will include new roads, phone and technology grids, water and power plants. “Basic healthcare services for every Iraqi is a must,” President Bush says. How about us, Mr. President? The New York Times recently reported that “people in employer-sponsored health plans are paying 48 percent more out of their own pockets for care than they did three years ago and the cost will be even higher next year.” The article went on to say that almost two-thirds of big companies raised the amounts that employees are contributing to the cost of their health plans this year and 79 percent say they will do so again in 2004. It has been estimated that over the next 10 years the cost for Iraq’s internal development will be about $250 billion. If we maintained an occupation force there for the next 10 years the total cost for the military and infrastructure would be a staggering $750 billion. President Bush has finally said he will ask for $87 billion for the war for next year. If that money were spent in the U.S., here is what we could get for $87 billion according to costofwar.com
: • 8,865,132 additional children could attend a year of Head Start, or • 26,876,620 additional children could be provided with a year of healthcare, or • 1,194,346 additional school teachers could be hired for one year, or • 1,589,252 additional four-year scholarships at public universities, or • 895,761 additional affordable housing units could be built. In the time it took you to read this column the war in Iraq cost $496,575, or about $165,525 per minute. So sit back and relax. And read. Based on what the total cost of the war is estimated to be next year, you can read this another 175,200 times.