Last week the war in Iraq, a long hard slog, something that I’ve commented a lot about over the past decade, finally ended (at least officially). This war has cost us more than we will ever know, but the easiest and hopefully-not-but-who-knows-it-very-well-might-happen way of tabulating the cost is saying that it’s all down hill from here. One should know that Afghanistan is where empires go to die. First the British, then the Soviet Union. Now us? Hmmm….
One thing that is certain through the fog of war is that we took our eye off the Tora Bora ball to concentrate on Mesopotamia and while we took the hanging gardens, and the barbarian dictator of a gardener who looked after them, we didn’t exit nearly as fast as we thought we would going into the event and it didn’t turn out the way that the rose colored projections said it would.
So, in that vein, let’s bring up once again my main topic, the one that I’ve commented on in the past which is the costs associated with the war. Now that its “over,” forces more experienced and much more well researched than me, namely the Center for American Progress’ Matt Duss and Peter Juul, have added up the costs of the second Iraq War lead by the second Commander in Chief named George Bush, and by costs I mean the human, financial, and strategic costs. The results are not pretty:
- Total deaths: Between 110,663 and 119,380
- Coalition deaths: 4,803
- U.S. deaths: 4,484
- U.S. wounded: 32,200
- U.S. deaths as a percentage of coalition deaths: 93.37 percent
- Iraqi Security Force, or ISF, deaths: At least 10,125
- Total coalition and ISF deaths: At least 14,926
- Iraqi civilian deaths: Between 103,674 and 113,265
- Non-Iraqi contractor deaths: At least 463
- Internally displaced persons: 1.24 million
- Refugees: More than 1.6 million
- Cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom: $806 billion
- Projected total cost of veterans’ health care and disability: $422 billion to $717 billion
More detailed costs:
- Total U.S. service members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan: More than 2 million
- Total Iraq/Afghanistan veterans eligible for VA health care: 1,250,663
- Total Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who have used VA health care since FY 2002: 625,384 (50 percent of eligible veterans)
- Total Iraq/Afghanistan veterans with PTSD: At least 168,854 (27 percent of those veterans who have used VA health care; does not include Vet Center or non-VA health care data)
- Suicide rate of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans using VA health care in FY 2008: 38 suicides per 100,000 veterans – PLEASE NOTE: National suicide rate, 2007: 11.26 per 100,000 Americans
Iraq reconstruction (as of September 30, 2011)
- Total funding: $182.27 billion
- Iraqi government funds (including Coalition Provisional Authority spending): $107.41 billion
- International funds: $13.03 billion
- U.S. funds (2003-2011): $61.83 billion
- Total U.S. unexpended obligations: $1.66 billion
The foregoing costs could conceivably be justified if the Iraq intervention had improved the United States’ strategic position in the Middle East. But this is clearly not the case. The Iraq war has strengthened anti-U.S. elements and made the position of the United States and its allies more precarious.
- Empowered Iran in Iraq and region.
- Created terrorist training ground.
- Loss of international standing.
- Diverted resources and attention from Afghanistan.
- Stifled democracy reform.
- Fueled sectarianism in region.
I wish this was better news but transparency is important. I read today that “When everything is changing, be consistent. When everyone is confused, be transparent. And when the world seems bleak, be good.” When thinking through the “What did we get our of this war?” question, everyone is definitely confused.
All info was obtained for the Center for American Progress
A few years ago, I remarked when listening to the cacophony of fireworks exploding in the same suburban neighborhood that I was in this past weekend that “this is what it must be like living in Iraq.” Well, this past July 4th made me feel like I was in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the unruly Chinese province that is in the news now and every other war zone in the world combined for a few hours.
There was the pop-pop-pop of firecrackers, the whistling and bang of bottle rockets and the boom and eventual crack of larger fireworks. As the tree cover was dense, you could rarely actually see what was exploding and the noise lasted for hours and hours and hours.
What I experienced was not the “oohs and ahhs” I experience normally while watching a nice, big professional display and instead of enjoying the explosions, I actually found them frightening. I never knew how far away the explosions were or if one shell or rocket was going to go off in an errant direction and possibly land in my backyard, hit the house or even somehow hit me. I never knew if my dog was going to start to howl and therefore wake up my sleeping and oh-so-tired daughter or if some of the explosions were going to wake her up outright.
This non-stop noise once again made me think about war, about how there are many places in the world where war is either raging or where it could break out at a moments notice and how supremely lucky I am to be an American because all else being equal, I’m pretty sure that a sustained war will not be fought on these shores and in my backyard anytime soon.
July 4th has therefore turned into another form of Thanksgiving. I get to experience a pseudo-war zone, where there are explosions for sport, clay pigeons – no harm, no fowl – with a bit of danger thrown in because you don’t know if the person aiming at the bird is blind, for 1 day a year in order to appreciate the fact that I don’t live in a real war zone for the other 364 days of the year.
For that, I am very thankful.
I would like to refrain from commenting on what is happening in Gaza right now except for pointing out how new ground is being broken on a number of fronts in terms of how wars are / will be fought in the 21st century.
First off, the Israeli military used Twitter to hold a news conference of all things, SMS short hand and all and Al Jazeera is using Twitter to update the public as to when it has a new report on the web because so many countries in the “West” do not carry the network. Could this be the first Web 2.0 war?
Second, to continue cribbing from the Gray Lady, the NYT has a very interesting article about how both Hamas and Israel are using all sorts of “traps and trickery” (their words) to fight each other. I truly believe that this is a sign of things to come. Here are just a few examples that were reported:
- Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes and even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.
- To avoid booby traps Israelis enter buildings by breaking through side walls, rather than going in the front. Once inside, they move from room to room, battering holes in interior walls to avoid exposure to snipers and suicide bombers dressed as civilians, with explosive belts hidden beneath winter coats.
- Israeli intelligence officers are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood
No one will deny war is hell. It seems that hell just, to quote Emeril, just kicked it up a notch.
The United States Army has turned over 100 years of science fiction into science fact as it has deployed a ray gun named Zeus in Iraq to blow up road side bombs. It works by shooting lasers at them and can do so from up to 300 meters away. It is named Zeus because this supreme ruler of Mount Olympus loved to throw lightening bolts around like they were candy.
I just love it when fantasy becomes reality. Now where is my flying car?
DARPA is asking for a Flying Submarine concept which technically should be called “a submersible aircraft, as an aircraft design can be pressurized and submerged far more easily than a heavy submarine could be made to fly.” I believe the word I’m looking for is cool.
Another cool tidbit is that this is post #700. While most people start a blog and stop posting after only a few entries, WGTCTIP2 is going to turn five this coming January. Onwards and upwards as we head to post #1000!
I’m currently reading a book titled Curveball: Spies, Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War by Bob Drogin which is making me even more angry than the NYT piece about Afghanistan I posted about yesterday. I cannot believe that America went to war with Iraq over such totally and utter bullshit – in case you were wondering, 3973 Americans have died thus far. Don’t even get me started on the civilian fallout.
I would like to quote page 160 where the author refers to the grand UN dog and pony show that our lovely senior government officials (we pay their salary keep in mind) put on in 2002:
[Sr. BND (German Federal Intelligence Service) official Werner] Kappel had expected to see photographs, hard evidence. [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell’s illustrations weren’t proof. They were hearsay. Kappel couldn’t get over it. Powell had used artists’ conjectures based on analysts’ interpretations of Arabic-to-German-to-English translations of debriefings reports of a manic-depressive defector the Americans had never talked to.
Please re-read that passage and tell me you feel good about paying taxes right now. The book details all the people who knew the intelligence being used to go to war in Iraq was bullshit but no one really did anything to stop it. Some people covered their asses but for the most part no one did anything.
If you pay taxes like I do you are culpable – you pay into this system like I do. You pay for the government, which includes petty people who would rather protect their pension than admit a mistake. I’m embarrassed, again.
There is a forgotten war being fought in Afghanistan that has been ongoing for six and a half years – I remember watching BBC World footage of B-52’s dropping bombs while on vacation in Mexico in October, 2001 – but the Iraq Debacle (FYI – it is now 1732 days since “Mission Accomplished”) has almost completed pushed it into the background. It is almost never mentioned and for the troops that are fighting and dying over there, that is a outright shame.
Therefore, I thank the heavens that reporter Elizabeth Rubin went to the rugged and scary Korengal Valley to spend time with Battle Company and then wrote about her experiences. For me this war was once again pushed to the forefront of my thoughts.
Her report was shocking – we have fellow citizens there who are literally losing their minds trying to win the “hearts and minds” of people who flat out do not care and do not want us there. Villagers who are friends in the morning are enemies shooting at them at night and lying about it the next day. Militants multiply and watch Battle Company’s every move. This list just goes on and on.
The passage below is lifted directly from the article. It is regarding a conversation Rubin had with Capt. Dan Kearney, the leader of Battle Company:
Just before I left, Kearney told me his biggest struggle would be holding his guys in check. “I’ve got too many geeking out, wanting to go off the deep end and kill people,” he said. One of his lieutenants wanted to shoot every Afghan in the face. Kearney shook his head. He wished he could buy 20 goats and let the boys beat and burn them and let loose their rage. He tried to tell them the restraints were a product of their success — that there was an Afghan government with its own rules. “I’m balancing plates on my goddamn nose is what I’m doing,” he said. “All it’s gonna take is for one of these guys to snap.”
I was so moved by the article that I am trying to donate money directly to these guys – not to the USO itself, not to the Afghan war effort, but to Battle Company. These guys have it rougher than almost any American in the world right now – if you don’t believe me, read the article. Some of them are stop-lossed – their contract is up but they are not allowed to go home (because we have 160k troops in, you guessed it, Iraq and are super short on resources). It’s utter and total bullshit and I’m embarrassed that it is happening, that I am a citizen and that I pay taxes that finance this whole shenanigan.
The NYT also has a good Korengal Valley slide show which shows the terrain and the brave men and women who are halfway around the world, doing the unthinkable each and every day.
PC Magazine has a short article about how hackers have been able to take control of certain power grids. It seems that several cities outside the U.S. have sustained attacks on utility systems and extortion demands and the CIA is taking careful note of what happened to try and prevent it from happening within our borders.
Considering the Internet really does not have any borders, this is troubling news as the world becomes more and more computerized. Let’s hope that the sys admins who manage our vital infrastructure locations have changed their default passwords from “password” to something harder to crack than “p@ssw0rd.”
Economics professors have a standard game they use to demonstrate to their students how apparently rational decisions can create a disastrous result which they call a “dollar auction.” As you read on, keep the whole Iraqi war debacle in mind.
Here is how the “dollar auction” works: a dollar is offered for sale to the highest bidder, with only one wrinkle – the second-highest bidder has to pay up on their losing bid as well.
Initially, almost every student gets sucked in. The first bids a penny, looking to make 99 cents. The second bids 2 cents, the third 3 cents, and so on, each feeling they have a chance at something good on the cheap. The early stages are fun, and the bidders wonder what possessed the professor to be willing to lose some money.
The problem surfaces when the bidders get up close to a dollar. After 99 cents the last vestige of profitability disappears. The highest bidders now realize that they stand to lose no matter what, but that they can still buffer their losses by winning the dollar. They just have to outlast the other player.
If this strategy is followed, the highest bidders usually run the bid up several dollars, turning the apparent shot at easy money into a ghastly battle of spiraling disaster. Just like the war in Iraq. Hmmm. Has anyone in the current administration taken Econ 101?
This isn’t my original thought: Oliver R. Goodenough wrote about the dollar aution in the Rutland Herald, but I liked it so much that I thought I should share it with y’all.
I’ve been catching up on old Thomas Friedman columns and getting nice and angry about what is taking place in the good old USA. Here is the last part of his recent Charge It To My Kids column:
Previous American generations connected with our troops by making sacrifices at home — we’ve never passed on the entire cost of a war to the next generation, said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, who has written a history — “The Price of Liberty” — about how America has paid for its wars since 1776.
“In every major war we have fought in the 19th and 20th centuries,” said Mr. Hormats, “Americans have been asked to pay higher taxes — and nonessential programs have been cut — to support the military effort. Yet during this Iraq war, taxes have been lowered and domestic spending has climbed. In contrast to World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, for most Americans this conflict has entailed no economic sacrifice. The only people really sacrificing for this war are the troops and their families.”
In his celebrated Farewell Address, Mr. Hormats noted, George Washington warned against “ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burdens we ourselves ought to bear.”
I once again have started to day dream about moving to Canada…