A few hours ago, all of Innermost Parts’ contributors attended a march and vigil on campus to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. We marched from Shapiro to Usdan and back in a loud trail of over 120 people – a very large number for a club-organized Brandeis political event. We gathered in a circle to listen to speakers, sing songs, and reflect on how the war has impacted us, America, the Iraqi people, and the world.
I was incredibly impressed by the large turnout and the passion that so many people had, five years in. I know that my attention has drifted somewhat away from the war over the last few years, and I feel this event brought it back to the front of my mind.
A final thought someone brought to my attention today, and which I’d like to leave you with – this is the first of its wars for which the United States has paid absolutely nothing (at least in terms of dollars) up front. In every other war, there has been an increase in taxes or some other financial mechanism implemented to pay for the war. But in this one, every penny has been borrowed from foreign governments and investors. So while ours may physically be a near-unilateral occupation, governments are financially responsible for this war the whole world round.
By President Bush’s own count, we have spent half a trillion dollars on this war, itself a sgering amount. Our generation and the next will be the ones paying. But by the conservative estimate of Harvard economist Linda Bilmes and Columbia economist Joseph E. Stiglitz in their new book, the total cost, accounting for the lost income of disabled soldiers’ families, the cost of supporting wounded veterans, etc., the cost is somewhere around $3 trillion dollars to America. Internationally, there is another $3 trillion cost.
These numbers are so large I cannot even wrap my mind around them. I would call them tragically ridiculous, but words seem silly compared to the unfathomable good such money could have done elsewhere.