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As I See It

In their unremitting zeal to involve our country in a war with Iraq, have Bush and Company seriously considered the potential cost to our country’s economy and in lives of our military personnel? Have they asked themselves if the possible threat posed by Saddam Hussein warrants the costs the country would have to bear to displace him? Or is it just a vendetta because “he tried to kill my dad.”

First let’s look at the cost to our economy. Estimates of the cost of a military action against Iraq, which nearly everyone agrees will require a commitment of massive ground forces, has been estimated to run as high as $200 billion. Past history tells us that initial estimates are usually only a fraction of the final costs. An invasion of Iraq and the probable aftermath could very well run in the range of $500 billion to a trillion dollars.

During just the past year, as a result of a combination of the Bush tax give-away and a faltering economy, we have seen a budget surplus vanish into a sea of red ink. And it isn’t only the federal government which is under serious financial strain – state and local governments are all struggling to cope with major revenue shortfalls.



So how is the Bush Administration proposing to pay for the enormous cost of an Iraq venture? Through some black magic which I and many others fail to grasp, they are going to pay for the Iraq War without raising taxes, while at the same time funding the War on Terrorism, the Homeland Security program, and a $100 billion antiballistic missile defense system, while at the same time increasing education funding and expanding medicare to add prescription drug coverage. This sounds exactly like what former president Ronald Reagan called “voodoo economics.”

In World War II, the government instituted a wartime surcharge tax to pay for the cost of fighting that war, but during the Vietnam War we tried to have both “guns and butter” by burying the cost of the war in federal deficits, which precipitated double-digit inflation in the late 1970s. The only place the Bush Administration can find the money to carry out its overly ambitious program is by raiding the Social Security Trust Fund, at the expense of future generations. The truth of the matter is that we just cannot afford a war in Iraq without undermining our economy. The economy is already under severe strain, and all this talk of starting a war with Iraq is only serving to further weaken it. The impact of an Iraq war on world oil prices could have a devastating effect on both the U.S. and world economies.



Of even greater concern is the potential cost in human lives, both American and Iraqi. It has been estimated that we may have to field a force of anywhere from 80,000 to 200,000 troops. Add in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps forces needed to support the operation and you raise the number of American military forces to at least 500,000, and add in a miscalculation factor, and you come up with committing at least a million and possibly several million Americans to the conflict. (The total number who served in the Vietnam War exceeded 8 million, and in the limited Persian Gulf War was nearly 500,000.)

Total casualties in the Vietnam War exceeded 200,000, including 58,000 deaths. The casualties during the Persian Gulf War were less than 1,000, including 300 deaths. However, post-war experience has disclosed tens of thousands of cases of trauma, including nerve damage, increased incidence of cancer, and birth defects in their children among the soldiers who served in that war, attributed to chemical agents accidentally released in the bombing of factories and sites at which they were stored.

How many American lives are we willing to forfeit or have destroyed in a reckless venture into Iraq? This does not appear to be a major concern of those who are beating the war drums and calling for the forcible ouster of Saddam Hussein by the United States.

We have yet to demonstrate any convincing evidence that Saddam Hussein really intends to attack the United States with his store of chemical, biological, or someday nuclear weapons. Can a case be made for an action which could bring down both our economy and the world economy and result in possibly hundreds of thousands of U.S. casualties (not to mention the number of innocent Iraqi victims) on the basis of an unproven conjecture about Saddam’s intentions?

If you love our country and want to save it from taking an action which could turn out to be a terrible mistake, don’t be afraid to ask that question of President Bush and our Senators, Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and Congressman Scott McInnis.

P.S. Israel is now saying that they have new intelligence information that indicates that we should invade Iran and Libya as well as Iraq. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger!

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.


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