'President Barack Obama marked the end of the U.S. war in Iraq with a salute to American troops at a military base central to the fight and a pledge to support veterans who are returning home to face a difficult economy.
'As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words,' Obama told soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Special Operations Command. 'Welcome home.'
A promise to end the conflict in Iraq was a central element of Obama's campaign for the presidency in 2008. When he took office in January 2009, there were almost 150,000 troops in Iraq. That number has shrunk to less than 8,000 and the number of U.S. military bases in the country has fallen to five from 505. When the pullout is complete, the U.S. presence will be at the embassy in Baghdad, with an array of diplomats, military advisers and contractors.
'There is something profound about the end of a war that has lasted so long,' Obama told troops."Indeed there is. Former President George W. Bush, using a duplicitous and fraudulent Congressional authorization, invaded Iraq under false premises in March 2003. The bases for that authorization—that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and maintained active links to al Qaeda making it a direct and imminent threat to the U.S.—were utterly false.
Declaring a doctine of pre-emption, Bush claimed the right for the U.S. to invade any country anytime U.S. leaders perceive an imminent threat to U.S. national security. Many, even some in the military, believe this doctrine and the actions justified by it are in violation not only of "just war" theory but also international law. In other words, the war itself is a war crime.
As a result of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld criminal push for war, 4,483 U.S. troops died in Iraq, 3,531 in combat. As well, official sources note 33,183 U.S. service -men and -women were wounded in Iraq. That number is disputed, and some believe it may be three times that many.
The number of Iraqi civilian dead cannot be reliably estimated, but, based on a study that appeared in the British medical journal Lancet, some have estimated the Iraq body count to be over one million. Official tallies fall way short of this number but are nonetheless substantial.
This is why President Obama's announcement today marking the official end of the war in Iraq is so momentous. It puts an official stop to this criminal war. It puts an official stop to the 'justified' wholesale killing of civilians.
But the costs of this war go beyond body counts. The direct economic costs of the war in Iraq, by most accounts, are well over $1 trillion. This does not include the costs of extra spending to care for veterans from combat through 2050, which may itself total over $1 trillion. Nor does it account for interest to be paid on funds borrowed to fund the war.
In 2008, Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz estimated the costs of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. He has since determined that estimate to be too low. As WoW pointed out at the time, that estimate did not include opportunity costs or what he calls "what if" costs:
"two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict's most sobering expenses: those in the category of "might have beens," or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only "what if" worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?
The answer to all four of these questions is probably no. The central lesson of economics is that resources -- including both money and attention -- are scarce. What was devoted to one theater, Iraq, was not available elsewhere."WoW's point was that if those funds squandered in destructive warfare had been put to creative use—investing, say, in green energy sources, shoring up Social Security, developing universal health care, seeding new, productive industries here and even abroad, reducing poverty worldwide, etc.—the potential return on those investments would have made a hugely positive contribution to the standard of living world-wide. Stiglitz, of course, notes that the financial crisis we are currently experiencing is almost certainly attributable to this war.
And this gets to the final component of the costs of this war: the price of our souls. Primarily, the companies that profited from this war are those engaged in arms and weapons manufactury, those providing contractual paramilitary services, and those involved in oilfield services industry. These are the destructive angels of our nature—the killing business, the resource exploitation business. Then, of course, there's their bankers and financiers—the speculators and parasites. The Iraq war has made these folks the Masters of the Universe—or at least elevated their mastery to a whole new level.
We may be able to pay back the economic costs of this war, but it will take time and sacrifice. We might even be able to reclaim our collective souls from the destructive forces that currently have us in their clutches. Occupy, I'd say, is a good start. We can never, however, recover the lives lost, U.S. or Iraqi.
The costs in human lives, the economic and financial costs, and the costs to our soul as a civilization: let us hope that the end to this war can reverse this self-destructive trend and put us on the road to a more creative, healthy, and productive future.
Thank you, President Obama, for putting an end to this atrocity. Frankly, it's about time. I know it has taken a great deal of time and energy on your part. I know you have had to battle the entrenched, corrupt forces of militarism and bureaucratic inertia and war-profiteering to get to this point. But it was the right thing to do. The project now is to figure out how to pay for this disaster without sending the entire world into a further economic tailspin and, simultaneously, recover our wounded souls—the better angels of our nature.
From Uncle Meat:
Now shut up 'n play ur guitar: