Larry Kerschner Writes

War Cost

We are coming up on the fifth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  At what cost?  We have lost habeas corpus.  Congress has legalized the government spying on us without a warrant.  We have become known as a lawless and renegade nation throughout the world as we promote torture and extraordinary rendition as a stated means of gaining intelligence.  The unstated message of torture is do what we say or this will happen to you and your children.

Since 2001, the government has illegally detained thousands of people, the most recognized example being the men at Guantánamo.   The U.S. government has engaged in unlawful surveillance and attempted to expand Executive powers to monitor and intimidate political and social activists. The right to dissent, for activists and citizens to protest government practices, is a right our nation’s founders recognized as one of the most fundamental and necessary liberties for a democratic society. Somehow we have a government that mouths the platitudes of democracy but only believes in the rule of the violence of the state.

We are just about to add the 4000th name to the list of those U.S. troops who have died in Iraq.  If we include the U.S. dead in Afghanistan the number approaches 4500 plus another 600 allied troops who have died in the two occupation zones.  Some would say the war has been going for seventeen years since the first invasion in 1991 followed by thirteen years of brutal sanctions against the people of Iraq before the current invasion and occupation. 

According to U.N. figures about one million Iraqis died as a result of the sanctions.  Somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 have died as a result of the current invasion and occupation.  Some 4.5 million Iraqis are displaced because of this war.  It is estimated that 40,000 Afghani civilians have been killed since we invaded that country.

According to the Veterans Administration more than 263,000 veterans have received treatment since returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  250,000 of these veterans have filed permanent disability claims and it is estimated that another 500,000 will likely file for permanent service related disability.  Veterans must currently wait at least six months after filing a claim to hear from the government.

Pentagon studies show that 20 percent of returning veterans suffer from traumatic brain injury.  That is about 320,000 veterans.  Pentagon studies also estimate that 800,000 returning veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

 A recent book by Nobel winning economist Joseph Stigliz and Harvard Professor Linda Bilmes makes an estimate of total dollar cost to the United States for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations conservatively at between two and three trillion dollars. This includes current operating costs, interest on the debt we have run up to pay for the operating costs, future borrowing for war expenses, the cost of a continued military presence in Iraq and the lifetime health-care and counseling for the veterans.

 How can we ever count the true cost to all of us for this disaster?

 Larry Kerschner  POB 397  Pe Ell WA 98572 (W) 291-3232 (H) 291-3946