I gather from the Huffington Post and the NY Times that it’s 10 years after we started the Iraq war.
Does anybody feel safer knowing that we overthrew Saddam Hussein? Maybe/probably there are Iraqi citizens that do, but as far as Americans go, I don’t know of anyone who is celebrating our entrance into Iraq, our deposing Saddam Hussein, or our staying in Iraq for all those years. The tragic fact is that Iraqi politics had nothing to do with our safety, so we don’t feel any safer than we did when we went in there.
Making matters worse is the fact that many of us didn’t think Hussein had Weapons of Mass destruction anyway. Joe Wilson told us as much, before we left to start the war. Others of us just don’t like war in general and weren’t for it. We think war is dumb in general, so any war is a bad idea and any military expenditures are, by extension, a bad idea.
But the Iraqi war is notably dumb, even to people who don’t think that wars are dumb. We fought a war to stop a man from using weapons he didn’t have. We declared “Mission Accomplished” after a short period and stayed far longer.
To sum up, we stayed in a land we didn’t need to be in, because our leadership felt we had failed to totally accomplish a mission which was based on a lie in the first place and therefore couldn’t be accomplished anyway. Now we don’t feel any safer after 10 years of fighting. That, it seems to me, is the very definition of a dumb war. Catholic theologians have thing called “Just War” which they are willing to allow if we have to have a war. Iraq doesn’t even come close to being a just war.
What did change, what did we accomplish by our time in Iraq? We have lost multitudes of American lives to death. We have made a mess of multitudes of other lives through dismemberment, injury, and the typical losses of war. These might be worth it or freely chosen losses due to valor and heroism if they had to happen, but, as we just said, this particular war didn’t. In addition, there are all the multitudes of psychological traumas and traumatic brain injuries which will affect this country for the next generation of Americans at least.
Beside all of the human tragedy, there is the cost of this particularly dumb war. We disrupted our economy here by sending workers to war. We spent all of the money on training soldiers. We then spent more and more for the weapons of war, and the contractors (aka mercenaries). For the next few years, we will spend money fixing and healing the soldiers who didn’t have to go in the first place…. if we can find the money.
Why can’t we find the money? We can’t find it now, we claim, because we have a massive debt problem, which we refuse to fix and now have to face by way of “The Sequester”.
But the question no one seems to be asking in the first place is where did we get the debt in the first place? We blame it on the Chinese and the difficult competition with their system which guarantees cheap labor. We blame it on “entitlements”, meaning we blame it on each other. We blame it on labor unions. What we don’t blame it on is the war. Why not?
According to costofwar.com , the war in Iraq cost us — at last count — $812 BILLION . That cost is going up with the accrual of interest, I’m sure.
At the same time, according to ideamoneywatch.com the sequester is designed to reduce our budget by $1.2 Trillion over the next 10 years.
That means that 80% of sequester cuts wouldn’t need to happen if we hadn’t had the war. It is as simple as that.
Now, the past is the past and we can’t change it. We are stuck with all of the losses of life, limb and money. There is nothing we can do about that now but heal and try to recover economically. But it would be a terrible loss of a teaching moment if we didn’t learn from our mistakes.
Next time our government decides to have a war:
1) If there is any doubt at all about the reason we’re going, let’s not go.
2) If our politicians lie to us and get caught about the reasons for the war, impeach them and take away their benefits.
3) Now there will always be despots running countries and there may actually be a need to defend ourselves, not attack others. This may occasion a war. There will be people who will want to fight a war under less than necessary reasons. We should consider only fighting “Just Wars” that meet whatever criteria is set forth under the idea.
4) None of this should be construed to say that people who don’t believe in war, even Just War, must fight.
5) Next time we consider having a war, included in whether it is “just”, let’s have a discussion of cost. What programs will have to be cut if we go to war? How will we pay for it? I have to say that I’m sick of Congress not wanting to spend money on social programs because “we don’t have it”, but when we want to go to war, we can suddenly find it, or the government doesn’t mind going into debt.
If debt is bad, why isn’t it always bad? And , if some debt “has to” happen, why can’t we choose better things to go into debt over?