As the Congress takes up the latest Bush administration "supplemental" appropriation of another $160 billion for the war in Iraq, the impact of the war on families has been enormous. Montana now has the highest number per capita of killed or wounded in the country - 26.09 per 100,000 population - and a total of 250 deaths or injuries as of May 10.
In fact, the Congress should consider whether the funding - almost a trillion dollars to date - helps al-Qaida more than us. The question of whom the war funding actually helps and its draining of our own needs should be a major issue in the June 3 Montana primary.
In his audio addresses, Osama bin Laden has underscored the importance of hitting economic targets, threatening the United States with financial ruin. Bleeding the U.S. economy is an explicitly stated and oft-repeated aim of al-Qaida. In 2004, soon after the war began, bin Laden stated clearly: "The Mujahedeen have finally forced Bush to have recourse to an emergency budget in order to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which indicates the success of the plan to exhaust (them) to the point of bankruptcy, God willing." Bin Laden emphasized the economic nature of the targets chosen in New York City for the Sept. 11 attacks, proclaiming it to be "very important to concentrate on striking the American economy by every possible means."
Draining our economy
He must be thrilled we've continued the emergency supplemental war funding, draining our economy for more than five years and counting. The U.S. economy is spiraling into crisis with the costs of oil and gas, college education, food doubling and tripling since 2001, drugs and other staples not far behind and home foreclosures at all-time highs.
Al-Qaida continues this objective right to the present.
The war in Iraq has been the economic disaster for the United States that bin Laden, without even having to deploy many resources, wished for (our own intelligence agencies confirm that al-Qaida is no more than 2 percent of the Iraq insurgents; the remainder is the civil strife that has persisted there for centuries).
With just the amount of our Iraq budget in 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi points out, our government could instead have repaired 70,000 bridges across the U.S. rated deficient; rebuilt the New Orleans levees; covered all children in the State Children's Health Insurance Plan; equipped U.S. agencies with interoperable communications equipment not available on Sept. 11, 2001; enrolled 1.4 million more children in Head Start; doubled the budget for the National Cancer Institute; screened all air cargo for 10 years; and hired 51,000 more police officers. Instead, Bush has vetoed programs like CHIP and insisted on war dollars. All the while, al-Qaida has regrouped and strengthened outside Iraq - in Afghanistan and around the world.
Fewer jobs created
While the Clinton administration created 23 million new jobs, Bush has created 6 million - the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover. The Bush administration chose to sink taxpayers' money into Iraq over public investment.
It is counterproductive to our own security that we paradoxically give al-Qaida exactly what it wants. The CIA's National Intelligence Estimate - now suddenly blocked from public view by the Bush administration likely because the document has spoken too much truth - stated on Jan. 13, 2005, that the war in Iraq "provides terrorists with a training ground" and "opportunity," and "the Jihadists will disperse to other countries" and "merge with local movements."
As to the president's objective to "fight them over there so we don't have to over here," the real question is whether it's al-Qaida keeping us bottled up in Iraq instead of the other way around. It's the classic strategy - divert the enemy to another location away from you, so that they will lose time, troops and effort - while you conduct your own priorities with no interference. Is al-Qaida beating us at our own game?
Editor's note: The war deaths and injuries statement is based on ICasualties data and U.S. Census population numbers. Wyoming is a distant second at 19.31.
Democratic strategist Robert Weiner is a former spokesman in the Clinton White House. John Larmett is former foreign policy assistant and press secretary to Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Rep. Jim McDermott.
(published in Billings MT Gazette)