Posted by: Randy Allgaier | January 26, 2008

Not a Mistake? Worth the blood and treasure? The War In Iraq

Are the Republican candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) deluded or on drugs? I don’t quite understand how it could be possible for 4 sentient beings to stand on a dais behind lecterns and seriously say that the war in Iraq was not a mistake and is worth the blood and treasure spent on it by an American people. I do have a caveat here about Ron Paul- his zealot libertarian stance scares the begeezes out of me- he seems to advocate for a form of economic anarchy, but I digress from my original point- the War in Iraq.

When pressed by Tim Russert, Mayor Giuliani, Senator McCain, Governor Romney and Governor Huckabee all were comfortable that the war was not a mistake and was worth the loss of blood and treasure.

At least Governor Huckabee had the “gumption” to hearken back to the initial argument the Bush administration gave to go to war- WMDs. Of course his analogy to WMDs being hidden around the country like little benign Easter Eggs was one of the more humorous moments of the debate- although the idea that a Presidential candidate would even make such an idiotic analogy is very disturbing.

Mr. Huckabee was even more disturbing when in a post-debate interview he suggested that maybe these WMDs had been secretly moved to Jordan. JORDAN? Jordan is probably the very best friend we have in the Arab world. The former King of Jordan – Hussein married an American woman, Queen Noor- the former Lisa Halaby, and enjoyed close relationships with American Presidents. His son King Abdullah II also is a good friend to our country- although the Bush administration has strained that relationship as much as it could with our conduct of the Iraq War. Is it possible that good ‘ol boy Mike meant to say Syria? I guess it don’t matter much- all them A-rabs – don’t they all wear towels on their head and look alike anyway? It’s time to wave your hand bye-bye Mike. You have no place on the world stage.

The only thing that might have been remotely interesting about the thought of a Huckabee presidency is the thought of the Huckabees deciding to renovate the White House and move into a mobile home on the White House grounds like they did when the Governor’s Mansion in Arkansas was being renovated.

Mr. Huckabee’s buffoonery aside let’s go back to the war not being a mistake and worth the blood and treasure. Let’s dissect these three issues separately.

Was the war a mistake? 

First let’s look at the issue of the war being a mistake. Maybe mistake is too benign – outright lie might be more accurate.  I think it is safe to say it is a mistake to go to war on the premise of lies told to Congress and the public. The Center for Public Integrity- a non-partisan and non-advocacy group that is committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world, released a study that concludes that following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

According to the study President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

Going to war based on lies is always a mistake. The Center for Public Integrity’s report states:

“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose “Duelfer Report” established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.”

Add to these lies leading us to war a few other facts- 1) This war shifted a policy that this country had had since its founding- not conducting a preëmptive war 2) This war has tarnished our reputation throughout the world and most significantly in the Arab world stretching many of our hard fought alliances in the region to their breaking point, and 3)This war was waged while we left the war in Afghanistan to hang in the wind so Al Qaeda and its ally the Taliban could freely reconstitute in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan and you have a definitive and indisputable answer: The war was definitely a mistake.

Given that the war can definitely be categorized as a mistake- it seems moot to even explore the cost in blood and treasure since nothing that is a mistake is worth any blood or treasure. But looking at the expense of this folly in terms of blood and treasure is important

Was the war worth the cost in blood?

The estimates for the dead in Iraq estimate from a low of 150,000 reported in a “New England Journal of Medicine” study to a high of 650,000 reported in the respected medical journal “The Lancet”. In order to be “fair”, let’s assume an average of the two extremes- 400,000.

Add to that the nearly 4,000 American troops dead and nearly 29,000 troops wounded. An estimated number of around 2,000 troops come home with brain injuries. In 2006- two years ago (the most up to date numbers I can find specific to this particular injury)- the official number of brain- injured Iraq veterans was more than 1,700, but Harriet Zeiner, Palo Alto’s leading neuropsychologist, believes that well over 6,000 such injuries is a far more realistic estimate. We can only assume that these numbers are higher two years later.

One year ago in January 2007, Time published an article “A Grim Milestone”. The 500th major amputee as of that date had occurred. According to the article limb-loss has occurred twice as often in Iraq as in any conflict of the past century, except for Vietnam, for which there are no good statistics. The 500 major amputations — toes and fingers aren’t counted — represent 2.2% of the 22,700 U.S. troops wounded in action reported at that time. Extrapolating that percentage to the current 29,000 troops wounded- and it adds another 138 for a total of 638 major amputees.

In an article from Medscape Medical Journal from November 6, 2007 the estimates of the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans returning from Iraq range from 12% to 20%. With deployment topping 1.5 million by the summer 2007, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) having treated more than 52,000 persons, the greatest effect of those mental health issues has yet to be experienced. These problems and interventions were presented at the American Public Health Association 135th Annual Meeting in Washington DC in November 2007. Evan Kanter, MD, PhD, staff psychiatrist in the PTSD Outpatient Clinic of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, said that estimates are for a minimum of 300,000 psychiatric casualties from service in Iraq

So let us tally up the numbers. An average estimate of 400,000 Iraqi deaths -not to mention the toll of Iraqi wounded (a number for which I cannot even find an estimate) and the millions of Iraqis who have been displaced, nearly 4,000 American troops dead, nearly 29,000 wounded with estimates of over 6,000 returning with brain injuries, over 600 with major amputations and more than 300,000 Americans returning from Iraq with psychiatric disorders. It’s a staggering and obscene amount of death and loss that never should have occurred. For the Republican candidates to say that this neo-conservative folly sold to the people with a lie is worth this sort of human tragedy is simply immoral.

Was the war worth the cost in treasure?

According to the National Priorities Project, a 501(c)(3) research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent and focuses on the impact of federal spending and other policies at the national, state, congressional district and local levels, the taxpayer cost of the Iraq War by the end of FY 2007 has been a total of $456 billion. The administration has requested nearly $200 billion in war-related spending for fiscal year 2008. Congress has not yet passed this request and will only be considering it in 2009. Based of the FY 2007 costs this breaks down to:

$4,100 for every American household
$1,500 for every American
$3,400 for every taxpayer
$11 million per hour and
$275 million per day

It is important to remember that the President has always requested war funding as “Supplemental Spending” which means that it doesn’t show up in the annual federal budget but it does affect the national debt- an amount that is somewhere around $9 trillion.

This doesn’t begin to address future costs including what public health officials estimate to be lifetime costs of mental healthcare for veterans returning from Iraq which Evan Kanter, MD, PhD, staff psychiatrist in the PTSD Outpatient Clinic of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, estimates at $660 billion.

So the cost in treasure has been and will continue to be staggering in direct and indirect costs for many years to come.

Conclusion- Immorality

For any person who wishes to lead this country for the next 4 years to suggest that this immoral war is worth any toll let alone the staggering cost in lives lost and money spent is simply unfathomable to me. It is absurd to think that this war has been worth the cost of one life or one dollar; it is repulsive, un-American, and grotesque to suggest that this war has been worth the true cost in blood and treasure in simply immoral.

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