What we’ve paid for war
War is hell.
Major General Harold Greene could certainly tell you all about that – but, sadly, he’s dead. On Aug. 5, General Green became the highest-ranking American soldier to die in our unfathomable, 13-year war in Afghanistan, joining 2,339 other service members who’ve paid the ultimate price for being sent by warmongering politicians into that fight for ... well, for what?
No president or Congressional leader has ever offered a coherent or credible answer, much less a compelling one, for why our troops have been made to sacrifice so much for so little. Indeed, how bitterly ironic that the general was not killed by the Taliban or al Qaeda, whom we’re supposedly fighting, but by one of the Afghan government’s own soldiers, whom we’re supposedly helping.
Another blunt reminder of the hellish absurdity of our political leaders’ quick-draw approach to war can be seen in a recent report by the Congressional Research Service. Military budget analysts in this nonpartisan Congressional agency keep track of how much the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are costing us taxpayers. The tally has now topped a trillion dollars – and that amount doesn’t count the cost of the future health care bill for veterans or the enormous interest payments that’ll be made on that debt, which will multiply the trillion-dollar outlay three-or-fourfold.
And the meter is still running. The Pentagon, White House and Congress intend to keep a contingent of soldiers and trainers in both countries for the foreseeable future, plus provide more billions of our tax dollars to both countries for building their infrastructure and education systems. Meanwhile, a trillion dollars and so many American lives later, Iraq is in chaos and falling apart, and Afghanistan is mired in corruption and facing a Taliban takeover.
And – ready or not – here we go again. Our military has been hurled back into the chaos of Iraq. Apparently, “Mission Accomplished” is “Mission Never-ending.”
We’re told that, for now, America will provide only jet fighters, drones, weaponry, humanitarian airdrops, military advice, training – and, of course, our money – to the cause of making this unworkable country work. At least President Obama has put his foot down and sensibly pledged that there will be no American “boots on the ground.”
However, in the politics of Iraq, don’t count on “sensible” surviving the chaos. The Shia-Sunni-Kurdish divide still rages on there, now exacerbated by the theocratic Islamic State’s sudden sadistic invasion. Plus, Iraq’s former prime minister (a corrupt autocrat who our foreign policy geniuses installed during the disastrous Bush-Cheney reign of errors) was so detested by practically everyone that the parliament dumped him. However, he added slapstick to Iraq’s chaos by desperately trying to cling to power, finally having to be almost physically hauled away.
But the least sensible factor affecting Iraq is our own red-faced, militaristic, warmongering members of Congress, demanding that we must go to war. For example, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is filled with bloodlust over the ferocious rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, so he says we have no choice but to return there to destroy the fanatics.
Of course, by “we,” congressional warriors like Lindsey don’t mean them, their loved ones or anyone else they actually know.
Since the end of World War II, practically every American president, backed by Congress, has sent our troops to die in wars of lies and political flimflam. From Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, our soldiers have been in senseless wars nearly nonstop for 70 years. It’s time to tell the perennial political sword-rattlers that they should wield the swords themselves. War is hell ... and this one is stupid.
Jim Hightower is national radio commentator, columnist and author.