Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Price of Iraq War! Is it worth it?

America's global war on terror which started immediately after the the 9/11 WTO bombings by the Al Qaeda over seven years ago continues. Afghanistan seems to have been stabilised or rather at least there is no news about what's happening there. But Iraq is constantly in the news both within the US and outside. Iraq seems to be taking a huge toll on America both in terms of people and resources. Despite two bloody wars and continued battles in Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction has been recovered from Iraq. It is very clear to the entire world that American war on Iraq was for oil and has nothing to do with WMD or global terror or anything of that sort. Over the past few weeks I have noticed a surge in reporting on Iraq war and almost everyday there is one major article about the war in the newspapers. I read only one newspaper here, Dallas Morning News and my observations will be limited to what I have read.

Plight of Civilians in Iraq
A recent article highlighted the plight of civilians caught between Allied Forces (US, UK and others) and rebel militia. According to the article, Iraqis are suffering more now than under Saddam Hussein. Corruption is rampant, phones never work, electricity is available only 2-4 hours every day, taps go dry for several hours every day and when water does flow it is infested with worms and smells foul. Employees of the phone company, electric and water supplies routinely harass home owners for bribes. Majority of schools and colleges have been closed down as academics and teachers have fled the country. One housewife was quoted saying that though salaries were lesser during Saddam Hussein's reign they had decent services. Most civilians lead a meal to meal existence, doing grocery shopping every day for their daily needs.

Massive Death Toll
Recently the death toll of allied forces personnell reached an astronomical figure of 4,000. There has been a huge outcry about this in US and UK, two countries which account for the maximum casualities. But several articles which trumpeted this 4,000 number and also carried several follow-up stories on the subject have completely ignored civilian casualities due to the war. The number of civilian casualties in Iraq alone is estimated at 82,418-89,938 by Iraq Body Count, a website which documents civilian deaths in Iraq. A figure in excess of 20 times of military casualities. But civilians are Iraqis, why should we bother seems to be the attitude of the newspapers who don't bother even to spend one line to mention the number. Why did the war kill so many civilians? Is America justified in killing so many civilians while claiming that the war was to rescue them from a cruel dictator? These questions continue to be unanswered.

Financial Implications of the war
A whole country destroyed and demolished. Rebuilding will take away the possibility of a decent life for at least two generations of Iraqis. What right does any nation, including America has to devastate the lives of millions of innocent civilians? Is American's thirst for oil so much that the world of millions of people has to be destroyed to quench it?

The financial devastation of the war can be felt in America too. A research paper by Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes and Nobel-prizewinning Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz claims that the final cost of the war to US could be $2 trillion — 10 times as high as the worst-case scenario of $200 billion suggested by a White House official before the war. The National Priorities website has a counter running and at the time of writing this article was $505,876,218,058. The website further reveals that the war costs as $4,681 per household; $1,721 per person and $341.4 million per day.

Troop Deployment
When the war started there were 250,000 men from US, 45,000 from UK, 2,000 from Australia and 194 from Poland. As I write this blog there is a 166,000-strong military inlcuding 10,500 from 27 countries fighting the war on the Allies side. Of course there are forces from contracted security agencies which total to 161,000 (53 percent (85,300) Iraqi, 17 percent (27,400) American, 30 percent (45,500) Others) and then there are 30,000 private mercenaries fighting on behalf of America.

Socio-cultural-economic impact
On the socio economic front the impact has been perhaps the highest, both in Iraq and in America. In Iraq of course the devastation has been the highest, with millions losing parents, brothers, spouses, children etc. Families have disintegrated not because of divorce but due to death and war. Children have been rendered orphans or separated from parents due to widespread demolition of the cities. Family structures have broken down with the more affluent and educated members fleeing the country to safer locations.

The impact in America has not been much different. Thus far there have been 16,000 soldiers who have been permanently disabled due to war. These people are entitled to receive payments for lifetime cost of disability and health care. To replace them recruitment budgets have to be enhanced.

With over 150,000 soldiers and officers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been significant impact on their lives back home. According to a report in Time magasine there were 10,477 divorces in 2004, 8,367 in 2005 and data for subsequent years are available and will be published soon. That is an amazing number of broken homes and that many people under stress and combating depression.

Meanwhile on the domestic front in America, the economy is going south. Gas prices are rising, despite America being in total control of Iraqi oil. The common man is stretched to his limit. Job losses are common, hundreds of thousands of homes are facing foreclosure because the owners have lost jobs and are unable to pay mortgage. Where is the country heading towards? If the war continues more money has to be pumped into it.

Imagine if there was no war and the same amount of money ($ 2 trillion) were to be invested on poverty eradication, education and development programmes in Sub Saharan Africa or Asia. Better still if it was invested in various parts of America on technology enhancement, job creation and improvement of education infrastructure or bolstering university budgets wouldn't the dollar have achieved much more? Almost all universities across the US are announcing a steep hike in their tuition. I am pretty sure this could have been avoided if the country was not at war. Perhaps gas prices wouldn't have gone so high if there was no war.

Think of it, is this high price for the war worth? Your comments are welcome.

Information Sources:
Iraq Body Count
Iraq Coalition Casualities
Washington Post
Time Magazine
National Priorities website
Global Security


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