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Iniquities and Inequities of War

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“For the oppressors, what is worthwhile is to have more—always more—even at the cost of the oppressed having less or having nothing. For them, to be is to have and to be the class of the ‘haves.’”
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Finally, the truth is seeping out. Contrary to how President George W. Bush has tried to justify the Iraq war in the past, he has now clumsily—if inadvertently—admitted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was aimed primarily at seizing predominant influence over its oil by establishing permanent (the administration favors “enduring”) military bases.

He made this transparently clear by adding a signing statement to the defense appropriation bill, indicating that he would
not be bound by the law’s prohibition against expending funds:

“(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq,” or

“(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

But, if you have been asleep for the past five years, you may ask, what about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its ties to al-Qaeda? A recent study by the Center for Public Integrity found that Bush made 260 false claims about these in the two years following 9/11. He was followed closely by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell with 254. Nor can they any longer pretend they were deceived by faulty intelligence, since hard evidence that continues to accumulate shows they knew exactly what they were doing.

Moreover, it has become abundantly clear that the “surge” of 30,000 troops into Iraq was aimed—pure and simple—at staving off definitive defeat until Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are safely out of office. Some, but not all, of those 30,000 troops are slated for withdrawal, but those who still expect more sizable withdrawals have not been reading the tea leaves. It is altogether likely there will still be 150,000 U.S. troops, and even more than that number of contractors, in Iraq a year from now.

In the administration’s view, the oil-and-bases prize is well worth the indignity of refereeing a civil war and additional troop casualties. That view was reflected recently in the words of a well-heeled suburbanite, who suggested to me, “You must concede that a few GIs killed every week is a small price to pay for the oil we need. Many more died in Vietnam, and there wasn’t even any oil there.”

That person was unusually blunt, but I believe his thinking may be widely shared, at least subconsciously, by those Americans who are not directly affected by the war—which is to say he vast majority. It is easier to assimilate and parrot the administration’s dishonesty than to confront the reality that these are consequential lies. They bring untold death and destruction—and not only in Iraq, where several hundred thousand civilians are dead and one out of six families have been displaced—but to thousands of our fellow citizens as well.

The Human Cost

Not only have almost 4,000 American troops been killed, but another 30,000 have been wounded in action. Veterans Administration documents obtained by Veterans for Common Sense show that nearly 264,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans already have been treated at VA hospitals, including more than 100,000 for mental health conditions.

According to a Harvard University report, the VA is projected to spend up to $700 billion over the next 40 years for medical care and disability payments for veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Add the billions sunk every week into the quagmire of Iraq—it is madness.

We are approaching a trillion-dollar war, while our Treasury is bankrupt, our economy is in shambles, and our infrastructure crumbles. The only things on an upward swing are the profits of oil companies...and suicides in the military.

For a fraction of the money wasted on an un-winnable occupation-cum-armed-referee-duty in Iraq, premium health care could be provided to every American, including veterans, whom we owe big time, and the almost 50 million of our brothers and sisters who lack health insurance.

The iniquities of war have widened the inequities in our society, stretching the gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is not right for me, one of the haves, to have so disproportionate a share of the nation’s wealth and opportunity. Nowhere is this more obvious than the access to excellent health care to which privilege has “entitled” me. A recently discovered challenge to my health brought this home to me like a ton of bricks.

Why Me?

The doctors said they needed more tissue from what they called the “mass” in my lower abdomen, so they could determine what kind of cancer had set up shop there. There was some sense of urgency, so just days later a surgeon made room for me at the end of a very busy New Year’s Eve.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
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