The Banished War
The war does not take up very much time on the presidential campaign trail. Emphasis rests on the economy. In rooting around for the causes of the recession, few politicians will finger the real culprit. It is, of course, the war, stupid.
Estimates place the cost of the Bush-Cheney "excellent adventure" in Iraq and Afghanistan at somewhere approaching three trillion dollars. The White House doesn't agree, but the administration is naturally reluctant to include anything but direct Department of Defense expenses. It doesn't allow for contractors and sub-contractors; many of their tabs are picked up by State and other departments.
To put three trillion in terms you and I can grasp, it totals three-hundred billion dollars. The late GOP Sen. Everett Dirksen once joked: "A million here, a million there and pretty soon you're talking about real money." The homespun legislator would be astounded and astonished at the quantity of red ink consumed by federal budgets.
Have you looked recently at the national deficit? Five years ago it stood at $374 billion, and that does not include another four years of the exploding costs in the Middle East. Other generations will not be able to pay off the current national debt, with more coming every day.
As for the reckoning in human terms, apologists argue casualties amount to little more than the dead and mangled in U.S. traffic accidents. They don't mention the young men and women are rarely in harm's way by choice. Pentagon orders – revealed the other day – list the units due in mid-summer to return to the war zone, again. The third deployment for some troops.
What George W. Bush announced as a smashing victory in the first 90 days after the Iraq invasion has turned into a long-term grinder, chewing up resources, including young lives. So much grinding that the American public has decided the subject is both boring and irrelevant to them, and they are right, but only partially.
When family and friends are fired from jobs that apparently have nothing to do with Iraq and Afghanistan, the real culprit is the war. Put another way: How can anybody expect tossing hundreds of billions into Asia Minor will not wreck the international economy? Our national reputation and pride be damned.
Last weekend Iraq's highest U.S. generals were forced to abjectly apologize for a single soldier's stupidity in hopes the "good Arabs" will not link up with the bad Arabs, called for some mysterious reason the "insurgents." For all the official blame-laying, the true culprits are those brass hats who fail to command respect for the religion America's leaders insist they mean to preserve and protect.
To gain perspective, try to imagine the out roar that would arise in the Bible Belt alone to a sniper putting holes in Christianity's holy book. In Iraq, the shooter's superiors initially condoned or ignored his dumb deed; both reactions must be judged criminal by the standard set down in the generals' apologies.
The enlisted man was chastised and sent promptly home – to the envy of his comrades. No officer apparently had a wrist slapped. One ranking military man's kissing of the Quran was greeted around here with disgust, as weakness. But nobody apparently knows the book kisser's faith. Were he a Muslim, the gesture was entirely appropriate. Islamic chaplains serve in the American forces, along with those from other faiths.
In a column dedicated to the human and financial tolls from invading Afghanistan and Iraq, the story could not be more appropriate; it weakens considerably the boast that we are fighting for the Middle East's average man and woman. In that part of the world, Islam sets the standard for morality and life. Many Muslims pray five times a day.
Obviously we are wasting all our money and our youth. For those we proclaim we mean to save, we remain European and American "crusaders," foreigners fighting for their strange God, not Allah. The Biblical injunction applies: What profits a man if he gains the world while losing his soul. As the federal deficit demonstrates, the war brings profit only to a small world of companies while losing the proclaimed reason why U.S. troops invaded the Middle East.
Sending this nation to the verge of bankruptcy and wrecking the general economy, the administration protests our forces are in Islamic countries for the common people. It's the American way to provide comfort and security for those less fortunate.
But Afghanistan's and Iraq's common people have died by the tens of thousands, frequently to American arms. Meanwhile, the war goes on devouring the federal budget, while robbing many small and large businesses of the capital they need to stay afloat.
You can wonder what the gallon price of gas might be without the huge petroleum drain for military purposes. The mortgage crisis came about because of a shortage of money, which is being thrown away in Iraq and Afghanistan big time. The musical "Cabaret" has a song: Money makes the world go 'round." Its shortage brings man and his works to a dead halt!
Terminating the draft means very few Americans have a personal war, or so they think. Everyone, however, is badgered by the huge costs of staying in Iraq and Afghanistan. And for what?
All surveys conducted in Islamic countries, including officially friendly Egypt and Morocco, show clearly an overwhelming number of Muslims want United States forces to go home. But the poll-takers seldom asked politicians whose offices rely totally on the presence of foreign bayonets. In addition, Arab profiteers never want to see the day the abundance of U.S gold stops flowing.
In Afghanistan and Iraq we have near-perfect examples of hands washing hands to everyone's profit, except American taxpayers. Enough already!