Butch Mazzuca’s comment of June 27 that Iraq was “moving in the right direction” (“How safe do you feel?”) when Barack Obama took office in 2009 and that Obama is somehow responsible for today’s evolving train wreck is simply and transparently ludicrous. As you read Mazzuca, please remember that he has been a tireless cheerleader and apologist for the Republican policies of fraud and deception that have led to this unspeakable disaster. Let’s go back and take another look at the facts.
In 2002-03, a devastated and deeply angry American public was told repeatedly and in great detail by the Republican administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that, one, Iraq had amassed weapons of mass destruction, which posed a clear and present danger to our republic and, two, that the terrorist group al-Qaida had gained a foothold in Iraq and would absolutely be using their new sanctuary to further threaten American soil. In addition to harboring personal vendettas against Saddam Hussein, the Republicans were relying on at least one forced (and false) confession obtained through torture, lies by known liars with transparent personal agendas and an utter contempt for and disregard of the mass of intelligence they were receiving from their own and Saddam Hussein’s people stating that neither of the propositions they were presenting to the American public as the basis of their effort to get to war as quickly as possible could possibly be true.
The details of this unconscionable deception have been thoroughly and irrefutably documented in the book “Hubris,” by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, which was also the subject of an MSNBC documentary. I have no intention of going into the details of “Hubris” here, as the effort would of necessity be far too abbreviated and there is no need. The facts are not in question. “Hubris” — a term which captures the incredible stupidity and arrogance of the Bush administration and their legions of Republican apologists — is a masterwork of investigative journalism. “Hubris” is a prime example of why right-wing mudslingers despise the so-called “liberal” media.
In late 2002, Larry Lindsey, Bush’s assistant for economic policy, estimated that the war was going to cost between $100 billion and $200 billion and that Bush needed to plan for paying for it. Bush was already well on the way to massive deficits and had been hacking away at the nation’s balance sheet with an insane series of tax cuts to placate right wing Republicans. He had no intention of looking for a way to pay for the war and simply fired Lindsey for his supposed incompetence. The administration preferred the more “manageable” fantasy figure of $50billion to $60 billion that was being floated around by people like Mitch Daniels and Donald Rumsfeld. This would be covered with more deficit spending, not a tax increase. Firing Lindsey was the same way Bush had treated every other red flag warning he had received about lighting the fires of war in the Middle East.
Working on the flimsiest of pretexts, Bush got us into a war with a ferocious enemy that he clearly did not understand and was too arrogant to have even admitted to exist. When he smashed Iraq into little pieces, ostensibly to evict the dictator Saddam Hussein, he unleashed a fury of predictable sectarian violence and gave rise to the power of 10,000 little Saddam Husseins. He obviously anticipated none of this, although there were plenty of sources around him who would have warned him of that likelihood had he been willing to listen, which he was not.
According to The Costs of War Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, scholarly initiative based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, the cost of the Republican war now stands at some $1.5 trillion and is expected to go as high as $3.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion. That’s a cost overrun factor of between 30 and 90, extreme even by Washington standards. But the project estimates that even these figures are low; unless the war debt is immediately repaid, an impossible proposition, interest payments alone could total $1 trillion by 2023 and over $7 trillion by 2053. At least half of the war liabilities will have to be borrowed from lenders such as China, and there is growing doubt that the money will be available. Wherever it comes from, every single dime of this money can qualify as being wasted.
The War Project tells us that some 350,000 have died in these wars, 220,000 of whom are civilians, although the actual number is probably far higher. Over 6,800 American service men and women have given their lives; some 970,000 have registered for VA disability benefits, overwhelming a frail and underfunded system already under vicious partisan political attack. Injuries among the American forces include, but are not limited to, traumatic brain injuries, multiple amputations, genital mutilation from roadside bombs, infections from open air burn pits, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, hearing difficulties such as lifelong tinnitus, hepatitis A, B and C, leishmaniasis (also known as the “Baghdad boil”), malaria, memory loss, migraines, sleep disorders and tuberculosis, among others, many of which will require lifelong care. One can only imagine the horror and suffering among the incalculable number injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, where medical facilities have been completely devastated by the war.
Some 6.7 million have been displaced, probably permanently, by the Republican war effort. One ongoing study I have come across by the Department of Economics at the University of Southern California states the following: “The economy of Iraq lost 27 years of economic progress (as a direct result of the war). The decline in lost Iraqi GDP caused by the war is estimated at $309.5 billion. Societal loss creating social discords including sectarian strife is not quantified.” All of these numbers came before the ISIS push into Iraq.
Make no mistake about it. Just as an arsonist who gives flame to a single match can be charged with burning down 10 square city blocks, this war belongs to the Republican Party of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. I regard that party to be morally and intellectually bankrupt. By the 2009 handover, it was too late. The Republicans had set in motion the unstoppable forces of devastation and ruin, and now it will be left for our children to pay the bills.
Walt Bujaryn lives in Edwards.