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Five Years of a Disastrous War and the Bills are Coming Due

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By Dave Lindorff

It’s appropriate that on this week of the fifth anniversary of the criminal US invasion of Iraq, we are also seeing several other things: the death toll of American troops in that doomed adventure is rising past 4000, the economy is sliding into a recession which could be deep and long, and the financial markets are teetering on the edge of a possibly historic collapse.

The conjunction of all of these dire things is no coincidence.

The war on Iraq was a predictable disaster from day one, when the administration tried to do it on the cheap, using less than half the manpower that Bush’s own generals said would be needed to control the country after the inevitable collapse of its government and military. But of course the US had to conduct this war on the cheap because the country was never really behind the war in the first place. It was a war that was "marketed" to us like a risky financial investment or a badly designed new car. The idea was to close the sale and get away from the deal as quickly as possible, leaving no office forwarding address.

The problem was that Iraqis, the victims of our attack, didn’t cooperate. They didn’t lie down and play dead. They decided to resist our effort to take over their country and run it like a retail gas station. So now the US has wasted over $500 billion in a country trying--and failing--to gain control over a country no bigger than a mid-sized state, battling against resistance forces armed with homemade bombs, obsolete grenade launchers and Vietnam-era AK-47 rifles.

But because the Bush/Cheney administration could never admit to Americans what this war would be costing, and has cost, all that money has been borrowed. As for the deaths and the tens of thousands of injuries, the government has hidden these, flying in the casualties in the dead of night and burying them quickly and as quietly as possible, while sticking the wounded in closed off VA hospitals and rehab centers, from which the press, for the most part, are barred (if they even bother to try and do a story).

That need to hide the truth means that the real cost of the war is running into the trillions of dollars, because of the interest on the debt, and because of the the future costs of providing for all those who are injured.

The war in Iraq has helped to bankrupt this country, which, to be honest, is the state we’re in when the US, year in and year out, is buying more than it is selling, leaving creditor nations like China, Japan and Saudi Arabia owning trillions of dollars in debt that cannot be repaid. It has also distorted the economy. By pushing up the price of oil to record levels of above $100/barrel, a result of uncertainty about supplies, plus the virtual removal of Iraq, the world’s second or third-largest oil-producing region, from the market, not to mention the jeopardizing of the entire oil supply through the Persian Gulf, which accounts for over 20 percent of the world’s oil, the Iraq War has thrown the US economy into a slump, while at the same time pushing up inflation.
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In order to keep things going in the face of all this, the administration and the Federal Reserve for years have kept mortgage rates low and encouraged homeowners to borrow on their home equity in order to keep spending, and thus the whole system, afloat. That gambit has now run its course, with the housing bubble finally bursting.

It would seem that there is little left to keep the economy going.
The housing crisis has left the nation’s banks and investment banks holding trillions of dollars in assets that are actually worth only a fraction of their face value. So rickety is the system that over the weekend, as the Federal Reserve worked frantically to prevent the collapse of Bear Stearns, the nation’s fifth-largest investment bank, there was real fear of a total collapse of the finance system, ala 1929. Such a thing could still happen, when the next bank or investment bank comes a cropper.

Consumers, for their part, are spent out.

And the war continues apace, the bodies, and the bills, piling up.

President Bush is saying it was all worth it. Cheney, touring the Middle East while trying to drum up support for what would be a catastrophic and even more criminal attack on Iran, is saying that the “progress” in Iraq has been “phenomenal.” And John McCain, the addled, past-his-sell-date Republican candidate for president, is committed to continuing this madness for another century, even if he cannot remember who the US is fighting over there (he confused the so-called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” group--all Sunni--with the Shia militias and had to be corrected by his travel buddy, Sen. Joe Lieberman).
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It’s a somber anniversary. Five years of a war that never should have happened. A country destroyed. America on the ropes economically. A million Iraqi civilians dead. 4000 American soldiers killed and another 20,000 maimed.

At some point, the American people will finally say they’ve had enough of this madness, manipulation and malfeasance.

The question is what will be left of this place when they finally put a stop to it and bring the troops home to a jobless economy.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)

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