What Price Freedom?

As soon as you finish reading this sentence, the national debt will be about 14,944,739,000,000 dollars.

“Every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, recovery of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement.” – Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003

Well, it’s November 2, 2011 and the grand tally is (drumroll please) expected to fall around the 1.291 trillion (that’s the made-up number we use to figure the national debt/GDP) dollars, all told. Granted, only 808 billion (that’s with a b) is going to Iraq, with the remainder of 400 some-odd billion flowing off to fund the Afghani conflict. Of course, the actual number, including projected costs for Veteran care, Pakistani conflicts, and money that the president didn’t seem needed accounting for is a staggering (and this is the low estimate) 3.7 trillion dollars That’s around 1/5 of the current national debt. And here we are, sitting at home, wondering how we can afford getting a couple Masters degrees. I wish we had massive banks to throw debt at us that we could later shrug off onto our children…Oh to dream!

I wonder if there’s anywhere else we could have used that money. Honestly, the 5.5 billion dollars that just vanished off the pallets and which cannot be tracked by the Department of Defense could handwave all of those concerns away with enough left over for, oh, I don’t know, rebuilding a bridge here and there.

And anyhow, haven’t we only lost around 5000 US soldiers during these conflicts? Surely our money is going to the right place, if it means most of our brave men and women return home. I mean, sure, “classified US military documents released by WikiLeaks in October 2010, record 109,032 deaths broken down into “Civilian” (66,081 deaths), “Host Nation” (15,196 deaths),”Enemy” (23,984 deaths), and “Friendly” (3,771 deaths)”, but by golly, that’s just the price of freedom! And note the disparity in the body count between the “official” WikiLeaks documentation, and what Reuters is reporting:

In human terms, 224,000 to 258,000 people have died directly from warfare, including 125,000 civilians in Iraq. Many more have died indirectly, from the loss of clean drinking water, healthcare, and nutrition. An additional 365,000 have been wounded and 7.8 million people — equal to the combined population of Connecticut and Kentucky — have been displaced.

Speaking of “indirect deaths”, let us not forget the 871 deaths of active and discharged war veterans by suicide.

I don’t really have it in me to be snarky about this.

The fact of the matter remains, these wars, Iraq in particular, are needless, life-ending, coffer draining conflicts. Yes, we are pulling out of Iraq at the end of the year, but that is cold comfort to those living on the street tonight, dying of malnutrition and poor health-care. Testify that it was money well spent to the soldiers who could not live with the memories and the guilt. Tell that to the children in the overcrowded schools with terrible lunch options whose parents have lost their unemployment benefits. Tell that to the foreclosed upon family with no recourse to save their home. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqi and Afghani civilians caught up in this horror who are without homes, without loved ones, without any way of retaliating against giant empires moving in and playing chess on their boards. These are humans lives, and they are worth saving.

The national debt in the United States is now 14,944,765,000,000 and counting. Where should we be spending it?

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