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9/26/2007 – Editorials

By Richard Peterson


Some figures came out in the past two weeks that Americans should be considering. Gen. David Petraeus revealed that one year from now it’s likely that more than 100,000 troops will remain in Iraq. Petraeus admitted the number of American military personnel killed in Iraq is "probably in the neighborhood of 60 to 90."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted that the cost of the military operations in Iraq is $9 billion per month. Per month!

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) requested a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which was released last week. That report showed that the cost of maintaining a "Korea-like" presence in Iraq over the next 50 years could exceed $2 trillion. The report found that even after a significant drawdown of US forces, it could cost up to $25 billion each year to keep a military presence in Iraq similar to that now on the Korean peninsula.

"President Bush has repeatedly drawn an analogy between the Iraq and Korean wars and his administration has suggested that our ongoing presence in Korea could provide a model for Iraq," said Senator Conrad. "The American people deserve to know that they are going to be handed a multi-trillion dollar bill from this president to cover the cost of his misguided policy in Iraq," Conrad said.

CBO has previously projected that war costs could reach $1 trillion over the 2009-2017 period, assuming a gradual drawdown to 75,000 deployed US troops. Based on CBO’s new report, which projects the annual cost of permanently maintaining 55,000 US troops in Iraq (roughly the equivalent of the US commitment in South Korea), it could cost another $1 trillion (in constant FY ’08 dollars) for operations in Iraq over the 2018 to 2057 period. In other words, taken together, CBO’s reports show that the long-term presence in Iraq envisioned by the Bush Administration could cost $2 trillion over the next 50 years. And this cost comes on top of the approximately $567 billion already appropriated and requested for Iraq through 2008.

"The Bush Administration has been trying to hide the cost of this war every step of the way," said Conrad. "Now the president is considering a significant ongoing presence in Iraq, long after he leaves office. Yet, he gives no indication of the cost or how it should be paid for, except to throw it all on the charge card and continue to run up the nation’s debt."

CBO’s projections of Iraq war costs have been consistently lower than actual amounts requested by the administration. For example, CBO previously projected that war costs could reach $154 billion in fiscal year 2008. However, the administration has already requested

$147 billion in war funding for fiscal year 2008, and the president is reportedly planning to ask for another $50 billion on top of that.

If this trend continues, the long-term presence in Iraq envisioned by the Bush Administration could cost even more than projected under CBO’s figures.

It’s a disaster and the president stubbornly clings to his failed policy. And the Democratic Congress can’t do anything because enough Republicans still support the president.

The US could be there 10 years and nothing would change. The US is caught in the middle of a religious war with religious leaders calling for blood. There are Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds and factions within each of those three major groups, all jockeying for power. There are religious leaders with their own heavily-armed militias. Democracy doesn’t have a chance in a situation like this.

Only a ruthless dictator like Saddam would be able to govern the fractured nation. It’s hopeless.

Oh, there are some successes. Militarily the US has been fairly successful. There are situations where schools have been built and other good works have been done by the US military. But these little pockets of success are simply not important in the final analysis.

Religious strife trumps everything. The country is falling apart while we’re there and it will completely fall apart when we eventually leave.

We’ll be wasting blood and treasure in Iraq at least until the elections of 2008, when the people decisively repudiate the disastrous policies of George W. Bush and those who support him.

And then we’ll have to wait until January of 2009 for a new president and a new Congress to pick up the pieces that are left and support our troops by bringing most of them home.


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