The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Iraq:
The costs of war

Apr 24, 2006

April 29th is set for a demonstration in New York City against the war in Iraq, called by a coalition of organizations. It isn’t the first demonstration and it shouldn’t be the last. We have an obligation to express our opposition to this rotten war.

The war in Iraq has cost the lives of close to 2,400 U.S. troops, according to the Department of Defense as of the end of April. An added 17,549 soldiers are considered wounded in action during this war. More than 200 additional coalition troops are dead in Iraq and almost 300 more U.S. troops have died in the Afghanistan war.

These numbers are undoubtedly low, because they are official and the administration wants support for its wars. So U.S. soldiers treated outside VA or military hospitals don’t count among the wounded. In addition, a psychiatrist seeing those returning from Iraq estimated that one in six soldiers was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, that is, the neurological and psychological problems arising from a constant situation of war and being part of an occupying army. The cost of such problems will be borne not only by soldiers’ families but by all of society, as was seen in the problems of returning soldiers from previous wars.

There are no neat clean wars.

But the cost for the people of Iraq has been even higher: their country, their homes and their families have been bombed by the most powerful armed force in existence.

The official figures for Iraqi casualties are 20 people per day dying the first year of the war; an average of 31 people per day dying the second year of the war; an average of 36 people per day dying the third year of the war. And these are only the official figures. Reality is much worse. Furthermore, as the attacks by sectarian militias on civilians spread, the count of the dead, tortured and wounded will rise.

What cannot be measured is the cost of the anger and humiliation felt by the Iraqis who survive. It doesn’t count the cost of a whole generation of children destroyed; it doesn’t count human misery. A city of five million people, Baghdad, has electricity only for three to four hours per day – even when the temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

Then there is the financial cost inside this country, a cost made up of much more than the 300 BILLION dollars that Congress has already authorized directly for the war and occupation.

Real problems right here at home remain unsolved and unfunded. For example, 300 billion dollars would have paid average salaries for more than six million additional teachers. Not only are public schools in crisis, our bridges and roads are falling apart. Older and younger people need health care they cannot pay for. Hundreds of thousands of Katrina survivors have not been helped to rebuild their destroyed homes, nor is there a plan to help the Gulf coast survive future hurricanes.

After the fall of the “wall” in 1989, some politicians claimed there would be a peace dividend. Instead we see more spending on warfare, with the United States accounting for almost half of the world’s total military spending. For 2006, the U.S. budget included more than 440 billion dollars for the Department of Defense, NOT including what was spent on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Four hundred billion dollars is the equivalent, for example, of two million new homes, each costing $200,000. Cities and towns all need new housing.

It is not just the families of U.S. soldiers who have every reason to demonstrate on April 29. Everyone does.

U.S. TROOPS OUT NOW!