Five years too long

(Article published Mar 28, 2008 in the South Bend Tribune)


By KATHY LIGGETT

It has become a sad ritual among people of peace in the Michiana community. March 19 has come and gone and we have marked yet another anniversary of the seemingly endless war in Iraq. It’s hard to believe that the war Vice President Cheney cavalierly predicted would last “weeks rather than months” is now beginning a sixth costly year.

Despite Americans’ overwhelming disapproval of the war in Iraq there appears to be no will or resolve by the folks in Washington to end it. Four thousand of our sons and daughters have been killed. Tens of thousands have been wounded. Every one of the 1.7 million who have served in Iraq has been changed for life. The cost of war, paid in the blood of the enlisted and in the pain borne by their families, touches so few households, or so it seems.

Those sitting at home safe in the knowledge that it’s not their child in harm’s way must understand that they, too, are paying a steep price for the Iraq war. The war has cost each American family of four about $16,500. Doesn’t that make complaining about a $25 wheel tax seem a little silly?

Recently, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes suggested that the true cost of the war will reach $3 trillion when hidden items such as long-term care for disabled veterans and replacement of depleted military equipment are taken into account. One might recall when President Bush’s Man, Mitch Daniels, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, told us that the Iraq war would cost between $50 billion and $60 billion.The United States spends $720 million in Iraq every single day. The costs in lost opportunity — what the money could have been spent on — boggles the mind.

For just one day of war in Iraq we could build 84 new schools or pay for college for 34,900 students, or build 6,482 homes (www.afsc.org/cost).

Of course, an even more shocking truth about the monetary cost of the Iraq war is that all of that money is being borrowed. Yes, we are taking out loans from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia. And our kids, grandkids and great grandkids will be paying it back, with interest.

But isn’t the war worth the cost? Aren’t the Iraqi people better off rid of a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein? Well, not exactly.

Epidemiologists estimate that 655,000 more people have died since the start of the war than would have died if the invasion had not occurred. As many as 4 million Iraqis have been displaced.Unemployment among Iraqis is estimated to be as high as 60 percent with 43 percent living in severe poverty. Children suffer chronic malnutrition at a rate of 28 percent (CNN.com, July 30, 2007). Daily life, despite the rosy scenario presented by the Bush administration, brings safe drinking water to only 30 percent of the Iraqi people. Baghdad homes have electricity an average of 5.6 hours a day.

So how is it that this war, based on lies, continues to rage on, causing death and unspeakable injury to Americans and Iraqis alike? How is it that a war that is bankrupting us and future generations continues with little or no oversight as to how billions of dollars are being spent? How is it that we care so little about our moral standing in the world and are oblivious to the millions of new enemies the war in Iraq has created for us? How is it that we ask so much of our men and women in uniform yet look the other way when they return as disabled veterans or ask for benefits they have earned? How is it that a war that is disapproved of by the vast majority of Americans rages on into a sixth year?

We go back to those folks in Washington. They need to be reminded that endless war in Iraq is not an option. It’s not good for Americans and it’s not good for Iraqis.

Rallies are great to show solidarity with others in the struggle to end the war. Vigils give us pause. However, rallies and vigils alone will not end this war .

Write a letter or, better yet, pick up the phone. It’s time to make our voices heard by our elected officials in Washington.

Kathy Liggett lives in Mishawaka.

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