War ain't cheap. But it's better for big business the longer it lasts. Defense contractors don't care about death tolls and MIA lists, only dollars and cents. The colour of blood is green.
First, let's start with Iraq. A December 2008 Washington Post poll found, "Seventy percent say President-elect Barack Obama should fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. forces from the country within 16 months." It now appears Obama will miss fulfilling that timeline by at least three months.
Bush's pre-emptive declaration of victory
But, the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq? How can you end a war that has already ended?
I remember President 'W' Bush standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, behind a huge banner that read: 'Mission Accomplished.'
And wait, didn't we – the free world - actually win this war?
The U.S. Commander-in-chief told the nation later that night in May, 2003, that, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." He then congratulated the U.S. military’s effort in Iraq, saying, "Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free."
Of course, Bush also said, "The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done." (Five years after the May 1 declaration and for Bush’s departure, the White House did try and rewrite history by claiming the "Mission Accomplished" banner was meant to refer only to the sailors on that particular ship. No alterations to his speech have been made.)
But we still won, right? Right? We won somewhere back in 2003. All the terrorists are now safely locked away in Gitmo and all the IEDs are out of the ground? The U.S. has cleaned up all the depleted uranium and cluster bombs? So it's all good, tab settled, check paid? What left over work could there to be done according to the tone of Bush's speech? He seemed so proud of himself.
The economics of death
For a war that's already ended and when the free world has already won, how come so many are still dying over there if the major combat operations have ended? Why is the supposed aftermath of a war causing more deaths than the war itself? Why does democracy look more like a war zone?
According to the casualty counter (yes, there is such a thing. It was last updated on February 9, 2009) on www.antiwar.com, 4243 American Forces deaths have been recorded since the war began on March 19, 2003, with 4104 of those deaths having occurred after the "Mission" was declared "Accomplished" on May 1, 2003. If the mission was so accomplished, why do two-thirds of Americans polled in the Washington Post article state they did not believe the war in Iraq was worth fighting? Was it ever?
War for profit
If someone is making bullets, then someone is making money. This is true in regards to defense contractors working in the Iraq theatre of conflict, where the U.S. treasury has become a virtual money exchange where you insert money to buy bullets and private security guards instead of school books and expensive patented medicine. Every year millions of tax dollars siphoned from domestic and international aid programs are diverted to feed the war machine.
A 2007 Rolling Stone magazine article, 'The Great Iraq Swindle,' by Matti Taibbi, outlines how Bush, "allowed an Army of for-profit contractors to invade the U.S. Treasury."
"What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism … Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient," Taibbi wrote.
The Internet site, Business Pundit, has a July 22, 2008 list of the twenty-five most vicious war profiteers; including names the public has heard before, like Halliburton and Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp. You can view the list here.
Which brings me to the next point, or man. Sad to say, even with Washington under new management, these companies will still be raking through the bloodshed for gold coins. No one should be blinded by the bright light of Obama's supposed luminary change until it actually happens. The financial interests that were backing up Bush will be propping up the new administration behind the scenes as well.
To Obama's credit, he did come forward with a campaign promise to withdraw US Forces from Iraqi soil within sixteen months. Perhaps this will finally end the war that has already ended and the free world has already won?
From Bush to Obama
The ongoing-legacy of the Iraq war is heartbreaking, death statistics spill like oil from the giant hole called victory in Iraq. Along with death statistics from enemy combat, we are faced with the horrific news from the United States Army report released early February, 2009, regarding suicide rates among soldiers, reporting an alarming spike in suicides among soldiers in January, 2009.
"In January, we lost more soldiers to suicide than to Al Qaeda," Paul Rieckhoff, the director of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America, stated in a related press release.
In the Army's annual report, it stated that soldiers were killing themselves at the highest rates on record in 2008. Yearly increases in suicide rates have been reported since 2004.
Turns out, the blood on Bush's hands is also from his own soldiers, and in the handshake transference of power to Obama, he has inherited these spoils of war.
From Iraq to Afghanistan
Obama, like his predecessor, has pledged to continue the fight against terrorism. Although he has declared his intentions to pull out of Iraq, just like in the game Risk, he is simply sliding his army across the map from Iraq to Afghanistan, America's forgotten war.
Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference last week U.S. government envoy, Richard Holbrooke warned that Afghanistan would be, "much tougher than Iraq." He said the war Obama inherits there is "a situation of very grand rhetoric with inadequate, insufficient resources." Holbrooke added, "I have never seen anything like the mess we have inherited."
This is the sendoff 30,000 U.S. troops received as they prepare -- over the course of 2009 -- to deploy to Afghanistan, ready to join the 32,500 NATO troops already stationed there as of December 1, 2008. An additional 17,000 troops were just announced, with 8,000 Marines going to southern Afghanistan in late spring, another 4,000 soldiers in summer and 5,000 support troops throughout the year.
When Obama visited Ottawa last week he did not ask Canada to deploy any more of its NATO troops to Afghanistan, instead choosing to praise the nation for its involvement. I wonder how soon victory will be declared there, before or after Canada troops are predicted to withdraw in 2011?
Every president needs a war. Bush Sr. and Jr. both had theirs. For Obama, he was against the war in Iraq before his presidency. While he rarely mentioned Afghanistan on the campaign trail, now as President, he has settled on his choice of enemy.
He has also chosen who will profit from this war. Just as with Bush's legacy of war profiteering, it seems that the Obama that swore during the campaign he would not invite lobbyists to the White House has appointed former Raytheon (a Canadian missile systems corporation) lobbyist, William Lynn, as deputy defense secretary on Wednesday, February 11, 2009.
The total cost for Iraq is predicted at three trillion dollars. How much money private contractors will make off the war, the public will never know. I guess victory ain't cheap.
Those figures are only in dollars, not drops of blood. How much more does Obama expect his nation to pay? Let alone the rest of the world?
This whole war business just doesn't add up.
krystalline kraus is a Toronto-based writer.