Cost of Iraq war: More than we can bear

WASHINGTON — Oceans of red ink. Oceans of blood. Those grim phrases could be a subtitle of a just-released report on the soaring costs of the Iraq war. The document debunks George W. Bush’s claims that the war is a success and the U.S. is safer.

The report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) is titled “A Failed ‘Transition’: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War.” It makes clear that those costs in human casualties and $5 billion monthly in taxes, will continue to skyrocket without end unless Bush and Dick Cheney are evicted from the White House Nov. 2.

The report quotes economist James Galbraith calling the Iraq war a “dagger at the heart of the U.S. economy” with an estimated cost for a three-year occupation of $3,415 for every U.S. household.

White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Lindsay was fired by Bush in 2002 for forecasting that that the war will cost the U.S. Treasury between $100 billion and $200 billion. “As it turned out, Lindsay was right on target,” the report states. “Congress has already approved three emergency special bills totaling $151.1 billion for Iraq. ... Another supplemental $60 billion appropriation is expected after the election.” That will push the total to $211 billion, in line with Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s estimate of the true financial costs of the war.

That money could have paid for 23 million housing vouchers for low-income families, health care for 27 million uninsured people, salaries for 3 million classroom teachers, 678,000 new fire engines or Head Start for 20 million children, the report says.

The heavily documented report by IPS fellow Phyllis Bennis and a team of other scholars debunks the diet of lies Bush is feeding voters that the “transition” is on track and Iraqi freedom just around the corner.

The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate both in terms of dead and wounded, the open-ended costs to the U.S. Treasury, and the damage the war has inflicted on U.S. moral standing in the world. As Kerry charged in the second debate in St. Louis, Bush-Cheney are building military bases for a permanent occupation of Iraq, not getting ready to withdraw U.S. troops anytime soon.



A sharply rising death toll

The report charges that the average of U.S. troops killed and wounded was 482 per month during the period ending May 1, 2003, when Bush stood on an aircraft carrier and boasted, “mission accomplished.” During the so-called “transition” that began just over a year later, June 28, 2004, the average monthly U.S. casualties nearly doubled to 747 per month. Nearly 1,100 GIs have been killed. And, according to Pentagon figures, 7,413 U.S. soldiers have been wounded since the war began, 94 percent of them since Bush proclaimed that “major combat has ended.” Other sources put the number wounded much higher.

Iraqis killed since March 20, 2003 number about 40,000.



Resistance grows, despite rosy claims

While Bush claims progress in subduing Iraq and quelling the insurgency, the report cites Pentagon estimates that the number of Iraqi resistance fighters has quadrupled between November 2003 and early September 2004 from 5,000 to 20,000.

The report quotes British Major General Andrew Graham that the real number of insurgents at 40,000 to 50,000, reinforcing the growing public belief that Bush-Cheney are losing the war as well as the battle for the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.

The IPS-FPIF report points out that, since the start of “transition,” eight countries have withdrawn their token troop contingents from Iraq. Costa Rica has joined Spain in asking to be removed from the coalition list. The percentage of the world population represented in the Bush-Cheney “coalition of the bribed and coerced” shrank from 19.1 percent in March 2003 to only 13.6 percent in September 2004.



U.S. credibility at all-time low

“Polls reveal that the war has damaged the U.S. government’s standing and credibility in the world,” the report states. “Surveys in eight European and Arab countries demonstrated broad public agreement that the war has hurt rather than helped the war on terrorism. At home, 52 percent of Americans ... disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq.” And, the report adds, 69 percent of Americans believe the war has “worsened the U.S. image in the world.”

The report cites UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s charge that the invasion of Iraq is “illegal.” The war “violates major tenets of international law,” the report continues, while Bush’s preemptive war doctrine “has set a dangerous precedent for other countries to act as military aggressors seizing any opportunity to respond militarily to claimed threats whether real or contrived,” alluding to the now incontrovertible proof that Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda as a pretext for war.



Abu Ghraib: license for torture?

The occupation continues to violate the Geneva Convention prohibitions on “collective punishment” such as closure of whole towns, demolition of houses and the arrest or kidnapping of innocent people, the report says. It charges that the occupation forces also resort to “extra-judicial killings and assassinations of Iraqi opposition leaders.”

The report continues, “The widely publicized humiliation, torture and brutalization of Iraqi prisoners (at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-operated prisons) by U.S. intelligence officials and guards gave new license for torture and mistreatment by governments around the world, particularly U.S. allies. ... The refusal to investigate further up the administration hierarchy was particularly damaging to international human rights.”

It blasts the Bush administration for a notorious Justice Department memo saying Bush is not bound by “international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal anti-torture law.” The memo “stands in stark violation of the International Convention Against Torture of which the U.S. is a signatory.”



Hardships on families mount

Bush and Cheney pour out a torrent of “support the troops” platitudes. But they have forced the soldiers and their families, especially reservists and National Guard troops, to bear the burden of a war while their wealthy cronies reap windfall war profits.

“For many families ... this has meant struggling to survive on military salaries,” the document states. “Studies show that between 30 and 40 percent of reservists and National Guard members earn a lower salary when they leave civilian employment for military deployment. Facing the loss of a breadwinner for extended periods, military families are dealing with economic hardships that are leading to unemployment, bankruptcy, hunger, and poor housing conditions.”

Despite laws barring employer dismissal of reservists and National Guard personnel, loss of jobs is becoming more widespread as the Pentagon enforces “stop loss” and involuntary extensions of up to two years to prevent a manpower crisis in Iraq. A Virginia-based hotline set up for soldiers terminated during their deployment reports that 400 calls a week are coming in from soldiers who have lost their jobs. During his second debate with Bush, Kerry accused the administration of a “back door draft” to keep force levels up in Iraq.

The report cites Thurston County, Wash., home of Fort Lewis, where 250 families have been forced to enroll in the WIC nutrition program to qualify for food stamps to feed their children. “Sometimes soldiers don’t even receive the low wages that they are due,” the study charges, citing a General Accounting Office report that 49 soldiers assigned to the 824th Quartermaster Company “did not receive the hardship duty pay they were entitled to until three months after arriving at their overseas deployment.”



Halliburton war profiteering

Contrast this with the velvet-glove treatment the Pentagon has accorded Halliburton, Bechtel, and other military contractors with crony ties to Bush and Cheney. Pentagon auditors recommended withholding $160 million in payments to Halliburton for meals that Halliburton subsidiary KBR falsely claimed they had served to soldiers in Iraq. Halliburton also overcharged the Pentagon $61 million for gasoline trucked into Iraq from Kuwait. The payments were frozen briefly but then resumed, without explanation. Halliburton employees also took $6 million in kickbacks from subcontractors. But Iraqi businesses have been frozen out of the bidding on lucrative military and reconstruction projects in Iraq.

The full text of the report can be found at www.ips-dc.org.

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com.click here for Spanish text