Saturday, November 27, 2010

The True Cost of War

Via Jill at the always-good Brilliant at Breakfast on 23 Nov, I click over to The Nation for this sober assessment of just how much the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing us:

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes now estimate the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will reach $4 to $6 trillion. There have been approximately 2,200 US and coalition casualties in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands of Afghan civilian deaths. The Christian Science Monitor reports that “softening” the 2011 and 2014 deadlines “could add at least $125 billion in war spending—not including long-term costs like debt servicing and health care for veterans."

And perhaps a full accounting of the health-related care for service members might just help dissuade us from putting our troops in harm's way so blithely as was done by President Bush:

One idea which might make the war resonate more with voters is to take responsibility for healthcare for veterans through a Veterans Trust Fund. Proposed by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, it would require Congress to appropriate funds upfront whenever they vote to go to war so that when soldiers are injured or wounded they are able to receive the care they need when they return home. Currently, that funding isn’t necessary when we send our troops off to war, so proper care is far from guaranteed.


The importance of a Veterans Trust Fund—aside from taking care of those who risk their lives for this nation—is that it makes visible the too-often hidden costs of fighting these wars. The maimed and wounded soldiers serving in Afghanistan simply aren’t seen. And for all their bluster about supporting the troops and also tackling the deficit, the GOP is loathe to make the costs of war known or to walk the walk when it comes to providing for veterans.

Then, to use a perhaps fitting analogy, the nail in the coffin (emphasis mine):

And yet Win Without War National Director and former Congressman Tom Andrews writes of one Member of Congress who complained that the Veterans Trust Fund would drive the cost of war too high—as if hiding these costs somehow makes the war cheaper. In fact, illustrating the cost of war is necessary, and if it’s too high, then we shouldn’t send the troops—especially when the case for our national security interest is so tenuous, as it is in Afghanistan. As Major General John Batiste, who commanded forces in Iraq, testified in September: "Why are we discussing a Veterans’ Trust Fund nine years into these wars? We might very well have decided if we’d done the strategy right that the ends, ways and means are not in balance and therefore this was not a good idea. That, at the end of the day, is the bottom line."

Indeed.  The squandering of our blood and national treasure, and the trashing of our moral authority on the world stage, have made this about the saddest chapter of this nation's existence.  And the end is nowhere in sight....

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