It's been estimated the Iraq war, besides making that country pretty much unlivable, will flush $3 trillion in U.S. taxpayer dollars down the Pentagon drain. Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz, who made that cost estimate, wrote with co-author Linda Bilmes in The Washington Post March 9, 2008, "The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. Economy...you can't spend $3 trillion---yes, $3 trillion ---on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home."
The Stiglitz study is well known and is a factor in making many Americans want to get out of Iraq. (A CNN poll this January found two-thirds opposed the war.) But other costly wars have been waged by the White House, Pentagon, and CIA that have been kept largely secret. Their costs ran into the billions of dollars and not only cheated uninformed taxpayers but lacerated innocent nations, turning their populations against us, and ruined for American business countries that should have been harmonious trading partners.
Take El Salvador. President John Kennedy in the early Sixties worked to help El Salvador's military set up ORDEN, a rural paramilitary network, and ANSESAL, an intelligence agency, that were the forerunners of the dreaded Death Squads. Between 1980 and 1992, the U.S. literally waged a war to help the government suppress El Salvador's poverty-struck people. The CIA created right-wing Death Squads to murder labor leaders who fought on behalf of the poor for decent wages. By the time those killer bands had finished their slaughter, 75,000 civilians lay dead and "the U.S. Treasury depleted by six billion dollars," according to journalist William Blum's "Rogue State" from Common Courage Press.
" Officially, the U.S. Military presence in El Salvador was limited to an advisory capacity. In actuality, military and CIA personnel played a more active role on a continuous basis," Blum writes. "About 20 Americans were killed or wounded in helicopter and plane crashes while flying reconnaissance or other missions over combat areas, and considerable evidence surfaced of a U.S. role in the ground fighting as well."
That the CIA was involved up to its ears in the blood-bath is more than a hollow assertion. The man known as the "father" of El Salvador's notorious Death Squads, General Jose Alberto Medrano, told The Progressive magazine at the time that his killer outfits were established with the support of the CIA. What's more, Covert Action magazine reported that in 1963 the Pentagon's Green Beret Col. Arthur Simons of Panama sent 10 Army Special Forces men to help Medrano set up the first paramilitary Death Squad. These Green Berets carried out political assassinations in coordination with Salvadoran military, that magazine said.
Besides Green Berets, The Progressive identified both the State Department and the Agency for International Development(AID) as participating in the concerted effort to suppress dissent. As far as Medrano was concerned, anyone who took the side of employees against corporate owners was a Communist. "You discover the communist by the way he talks," Gen. Medrano said. "Generally, he speaks against Yankee imperialism, he speaks against the oligarchy, he speaks against military men. We can spot them easily."
Medrano added, "In this revolutionary war, the enemy comes from our people. They don't have the rights of Geneva. They are traitors to the country. What can the troops do? When they find them, they kill them." (So much for free speech and human rights.)
One of the "enemies" was Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero who urged soldiers to stop killing on grounds they were "not obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God"---a comment that is as relevant today as the hour it was uttered. The very next day while saying mass in a cancer hospital chapel, Romero was shot dead. According to Craig Pyes, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, the Salvadoran National Guard also set up safe houses "where they tortured and then murdered those they considered 'subversives.' Their idea was to cleanse the country of hundreds of thousands of people."