What are taxpayers getting for this $5,000-per-second war?
For the Appeal
Recent calculations of the direct costs of the Iraq war are currently running around $5,000 per second which, unlike the previously used figure of umpteen billions of dollars per month, is a far more comprehensible number for the U.S. taxpayer to fathom. This includes military payroll, transportation to and from the war zone, in-country lodging, meals, active forces medical care, heavy equipment, spare parts, maintenance, fuel, weaponry, ammunition, shipping, subcontractors, etc., plus the indirect costs of long-term medical care for wounded veterans, death benefits and funeral expenses, VA and Pentagon administrative costs, interest on the Iraq war debt, etc.
The human cost of military and civilian deaths, battlefield injuries, and psychological trauma to the people who have been wounded by the Iraq war is, of course, incalculable. There is no way to put a price tag on someone’s lost future. The mental anguish of military families on the home front and their loss of loved ones are equally incalculable.
Whether you are for or against the Iraq war, there are questions that all Americans should be asking their government about these expenditures of taxpayer dollars. Business is, after all, business. First of all, what exactly is the U.S. taxpayer getting for his or her $5,000- per second? Does anyone in the federal government really know?
We’ve all heard the Bush administration’s pronouncements about creating “Democracy in the Middle East” which, given the Tigris-Euphrates region’s 5,000-year history of kingdoms, empires, caliphates, sheikdoms, theocracies and tyrannical dictatorships, is naive at best, a subterfuge more likely. The local ethnic groups and religious factions have been engaging in inter-clan/inter-tribal/inter-sectarian/inter-nation/inter-species warfare throughout their entire 5,000-year history. Peace only prevails when the warring parties run out of ammunition (it’s a budget thing). This being the case, who are we to tell the people of this region that their traditional values, forms of government, and predilection for warfare with their neighbors are no longer acceptable? The Tigris-Euphrates region is, after all, the “Cradle of Civilization” with a storied history that predates the American experience by some 4,800 years.
By contrast, it appears that Iranian taxpayers have profited greatly from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Their arch enemy Saddam Hussein has been rousted, captured, and hung by the neck until dead, thereby reducing Iran’s need for a large and costly military establishment to defend against Saddam’s attacks. The new Iraqi government is Shiite, friendly, and weak rather than Sunni, warlike and strong as it was under Saddam.
Additionally, the regional instability caused by the Iraq invasion has destabilized world oil markets, causing Wall Street futures traders to bid the price of oil up to astronomical levels solely on fear rather than any real shortage of supply. As an added bonus, every time a member of the Bush administration rattles a saber or uses the word “Iran” in a statement before the media, the price of oil spikes for a few days. Better than this it just doesn’t get for an oil-producing nation. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is laughing all the way to the bank to the benefit of Iranian taxpayers and at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.
Being unable to quantify the net benefit to U.S. taxpayers of this $5,000-per-second expenditure by the Bush administration, we should next look at the “Lost Opportunity Cost” of using Iraq war funding for other governmental purposes. For example, the existing U.S. public infrastructure is antiquated in many areas of the country and in dire need of maintenance, repair and upgrades. Local potable water and wastewater systems, highways, bridges, dams, irrigation canals, airports, sea ports, etc. could all benefit from increased federal funding. Infrastructure investment is costly but pays huge dividends over time and improves the quality of life for its users.
Federal investments in health care, education, paying down the national debt, border security, natural disaster relief, research and development of clean domestically produced energy technologies are other national needs that also could benefit from a few weeks or months worth of those $5,000 seconds.
The instant question that all U.S. taxpayers must ask themselves when choosing the next president in the November election is, do you want to continue paying $5,000-per second for a continuation of Bush administration Iraq war policies, or would you rather spend taxpayer dollars on pressing domestic needs? Which financial strategy will provide greater long-term benefits and security to your family?
An even larger question that taxpayers should also be asking is, do we really need another commander-in-chief, or would the nation be better served by an accountant-in-chief in the White House?
One must ask would an accountant-in-chief have embarked upon a war of aggression with no predictable end in sight paid for by deficit financing that has increased the national debt to more than $9 trillion and counting? Not likely. Given our precarious national finances, the time may have come for a Constitutional amendment on this issue. At the end of the day, it’s all about the budget.
• Fred Kessler of Carson City is a general contractor.