Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Think Trillions - Cost of Bush's War
The $2 Trillion Nightmare
On Thursday, the Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Schumer, conducted a public examination of the costs of the war. The witnesses included the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz (who believes the overall costs of the war — not just the cost to taxpayers — will reach $3 trillion), and Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International.
Both men talked about large opportunities lost because of the money poured into the war. “For a fraction of the cost of this war,” said Mr. Stiglitz, “we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more.”
Mr. Hormats mentioned Social Security and Medicare, saying that both could have been put “on a more sustainable basis.” And he cited the committee’s own calculations from last fall that showed that the money spent on the war each day is enough to enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start for a year, or make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students through Pell Grants, or pay the annual salaries of nearly 11,000 additional border patrol agents or 14,000 more police officers.
What we’re getting instead is the stuff of nightmares. Mr. Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia, has been working with a colleague at Harvard, Linda Bilmes, to document, among other things, some of the less obvious costs of the war. These include the obligation to provide health care and disability benefits for returning veterans. Those costs will be with us for decades.
Mr. Stiglitz noted that nearly 40 percent of the 700,000 troops from the first gulf war, which lasted just a month, have become eligible for disability benefits. The current war is approaching five years in duration.
“Imagine then,” said Mr. Stiglitz, “what a war — that will almost surely involve more than 2 million troops and will almost surely last more than six or seven years — will cost. Already we are seeing large numbers of returning veterans showing up at V.A. hospitals for treatment, large numbers applying for disability and large numbers with severe psychological problems.”
The Bush administration has tried its best to conceal the horrendous costs of the war. It has bypassed the normal budgetary process, financing the war almost entirely through “emergency” appropriations that get far less scrutiny.
Hypocrisy of Muslim Countries
- A book fair in Paris has become the subject of controversy with several Muslim countries announcing boycotts because the guest of honour is Israel.
- Saudi Arabia has become the latest to withdraw, following Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.
- The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Isesco) has also urged its 50 members to pull out from the fair, which starts on 14 March.
- Isesco said Israel had committed crimes against humanity in Palestinian areas.
But look at the roster of accusers. None of the Muslim countries involved can claim to be exempt from human rights abuses. Like the United States -- guilty of "extraordinary rendition", waterboarding and other shady acts that are yet to be reported -- the Islamic countries consider themselves to be untainted. It is a laughable position to take. They are like the proverbial ostriches with heads buried in the sand.