Why has Iraq been so absent as an issue from the US presidential election? It seems scarcely believable that the one dominant, inescapable political issue in US politics over the past five years is now barely commented on by the main candidates. Why is everyone focused on the $700 billion bailout which we should have known would be handed over gift wrapped to Bush and Paulsen on the backs of the middle class just as was done by Bush and Rumsfeld with the so called “War on Terror.”
The former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, the former CIA director George Tenet, President Bush's chief strategist Karl Rove and many others all “lost” their jobs because of Iraq. With such a cast of high-profile casualties, as well as consistent poll results showing that the majority of Americans feel that the war has been handled badly and want their country to withdraw militarily from Iraq, you would expect it to be a huge and divisive issue in such a closely fought contest.
Members of the House Banking Committee should also be held accountable for what has been categorized as the worse financial collapse and bailout in this country. The candidates should be fighting front and center addressing the fact that this war has put us in $1 trillion worth of debt, with no end in sight. Yet, they are haggling over “transparency” issues when it comes to giving billions to banks. Right now the war is costing the average family $4,681 per household and $1,721 per person, with a total daily cost to the taxpayer of $341.4 million. (Calculating what it cost me personally with my family income totals $44,252 since 2003.)
Paulson’s bailout plan would require Congress to raise the U.S. debt limit to $11.3 trillion. Don’t forget it was just in July when the debt limit was raised by $800 billion to $10.6 billion as a result of the Housing Bill. On that basis, the cost of the bailouts thus far is $1.5 trillion - and counting, which boils down to approximately $6,000 per average household.
So if the average middle class household is paying an extra $6,000 plus $4,681 yearly, that is an extra $10,681 per household per year, on top of struggling to survive on lower wages, higher food and gas prices. No wonder people are losing their homes!
Back to the war, however, which has been mentioned by the candidates and the media, but only in passing. They put this down to the success of the so-called "surge", a euphemism for the US troop increase parroted by everyone. The roughly 30,000 extra troops demanded by General David Petraeus, the overall US forces commander in Iraq, recently replaced after a promotion to leader of CENTCOM (Central Command in Control of the Middle East), by General Odierno, have been deployed in much greater numbers in the areas around Baghdad, which have witnessed the most violence between Iraqi groups as well as attacks on US troops. There is no doubt that clashes, particularly across the sectarian divide of Sunni and Shia, have dropped, and this has tentatively encouraged Iraqis in some districts in the heart of the city to venture out into their neighborhoods in ways that they haven't done for a long time.
British and American politicians have been quick to portray the situation in Iraq as an across-the-board reduction in violence, and link this directly to the surge. This argument has been widely accepted. Yet troop levels in Iraq have been much higher in the past than they are now, with no effect whatsoever on the numbers of attacks, bombings and deaths. So why has it worked this time?
The reality is that the surge is not what has led to the lower levels of violence, and attacks on US troops are still causing considerable casualties. What has had a far greater impact has been the decision by the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to call a ceasefire between his Mahdi army, a force of up to 100,000, and US troops and Iraqi government security units. Although US commanders on the ground ascribe almost every attack on Iraqis and their troops to al-Qaeda-linked groups, this is mainly for political reasons - to support President Bush's notion that Iraq is the central battleground in the fight against the terrorists. The other factor in the ceasefire decision has been the payment of upwards of $300 a week by the US government to various local militia so that the unrest and unhappiness of the Iraqis is somewhat quelled.