Tuesday, May 8, 2007

500 Billion

The cost of the war in Iraq is about to eclipse the 500 billion dollar mark. But what does that mean? Who among us really understands those kinds of numbers? I know I don’t have a clue as to how a figure like that impacts my life. Unfortunately, for too many of us it is some incomprehensible number in a sea of numbers.

According to this administration the cost of this war would be in the 50 billion dollar range, with the majority of the cost being recovered from the Iraqis. Most economists considered this figure to be a ridiculous understatement of the true cost, but again in the run up to this war the first casualty has always been the truth. Just as they underestimated the cost of this war in lives, reconstruction, and political capital, they also miscalculated the cost in dollars.

It is a known fact that the majority of people cannot get a handle on a figure like 500 billion, it is beyond the realm of our comprehension. It is usually beyond us to make sense of such large numbers, unless we relate them to other things or other numbers. How do we know if 500 billion is a lot of money? It sounds like a lot of money. To help get a grip on this large amount I found an example that might help. A group has put together a shopping spree comparison to help us manage this figure. The example is based on a shopper spending 20 dollars a second for 24 hours every day until the money is gone. It would take 792 years for our busy shopper to exhaust the 500 billion. This is spending 20 dollars a second, every day, for 24 hours a day. Or if you would like to see what the running cost of the war is and what we could be spending the money on instead check out Cost Of The War.

With the President and the Congress haggling over another war spending bill, the question at some point has to be asked, how much is enough? How much more money and lives are we willing to sacrifice for this man’s foolish venture at greatness. With no end in sight and no plan to bring about an end, how can we continue in good conscience to support this effort in silence? If we continue to not speak out, we are ourselves complicit in the continuing calamity that is now Iraq. Is there anyone left who is foolish enough to believe that we can solve this with more money and lives? If there are any who continue to believe, then left them volunteer to carry out this surge strategy. Anyone can be brave with someone else’s life; it is a far different animal to be willing to risk your own life for what you claim to believe in.

So what has our 500 billion bought us? Is Iraq any safer? Are we any safer? Have we improved the lives of the ordinary Iraqi’s?

A recent report concerning the reconstruction of Iraq has found that seven of the eight so called successful projects have been abandoned or are in disrepair.[1] These projects were supposed to represent our successes. These are the successes that the media is not reporting according to the administration. Well, if this is success I can’t wait to see the failures.

Unfortunately, our 500 billion has purchased little in the way of success or stability. Ordinary Iraqis have received little or no benefit from it. Iraq is less safe than under Saddam. This administration has managed to dispose of a dictator and make life worse for the Iraqi people. This is money well spent. Instead of helping to decrease the terrorist threat, we have managed to increase the threat. Their daily lives have deteriorated into a struggle just to survive. Those who have the means have left Iraq, placing a brain drain on this country when they desperately need their brightest and their best. So, even the projects we do create do not have the technical personnel to maintain them. They are in desperate need of maintenance and support personnel. The country is being run by sectarian bureaucrats and religious zealots that are more concerned with clan loyalty than rebuilding the sectarian society we helped to destroy.

It is time to make some hard choices about Iraq and nobody seems to want to make them. It is always more politically expedient to stay the course, but we can no longer afford such cowardice. Shall we wait for 3,000 more Americans to die, 40,000 more Iraqis to die, and 500 billion dollars more to be spent before we find the courage to end this outrage. Who among us has the courage to step forward and acknowledge a 500 billion mistake? Ooooops my bad! Until then, we will continue to send more troops, kill more Iraqis and spend more money. It appears we have more money than wisdom.

[1] http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0502/p99s01-duts.html

No comments:

HTML stat tracker