Iraq War has cost us dearly

by Jim Longworth

President Obama is finally making good on his promise to withdraw American troops from Iraq, but there is little cause for celebration. First, because our military personnel should have been withdrawn seven years ago at the moment George Bush knew his invasion was based on faulty information. Second, because we’re still leaving more than 50,000 troops behind. Of course, Obama didn’t get us into Iraq, but he should have brought our troops home immediately upon taking office. Instead, casualties continued to mount under his administration. To date, we have lost 4,415 soldiers and another 31,897 have been seriously wounded.

And then there are the financial losses sustained. As of this month, we have spent over $1 trillion to invade and occupy Iraq. But that’s only part of the story. According to data compiled by both

ABC and CBS news, here’s what’s been lost or unaccounted for since the invasion in March of 2003:

$90 billion in funding is missing; Another $549 million in spare parts shipped to contractors is gone; 190,000 guns have disappeared including AK 47 rifles; $1 billion worth of equipment is unaccounted for, including rocket-propelled grenades; and there have been $1.4 billion in overcharges by Halliburton.

And what have we accomplished for the Iraqi people who we claimed to be helping? For starters, according to independent sources such as the Brookings Institute, more than a half-million innocent men, women and children have died as a result of our invasion. Another 2.5 million Iraqis have been displaced, and those who have homes only have electricity part of the day. Meanwhile, 28 percent of Iraqi children are malnourished. Prior to our invasion there were 34,000 physicians in Iraq. Since the war started, that number has dwindled to just 12,000. It’s no wonder that 90 percent of Iraqis say they were better off under Saddam Hussein (source: Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies).

Yes, Saddam was a dictator, and one of his sons was a menace. But there was always running water, sewer and electricity for his people, and not a trace of al Qaeda terrorist activity under his regime. Nevertheless, we got rid of him in order to save face from a botched invasion, and we still haven’t captured the man who masterminded the 9-11 attacks. We did, however, manage to catch bin Laden’s personal chef last week, so I guess that’s something.

Again, Obama isn’t to blame for the invasion, but he has continually asked for more funding to keep the war going. This year, for example, he is spending $160 billion of our tax dollars in Iraq, and next year he will spend another $159 billion. Maybe those big numbers don’t mean anything to those of us in the Triad, but they should. The non-partisan National Priorities Project has calculated what every state and locality will be paying for the Iraq war in fiscal year 2011, as well as what that money could have been used for.

Next year, Guilford County taxpayers’ share of war funding will be $79 million, while folks in Forsyth will cough up $56 million. That translates to nearly 2,700 police officers or sheriff’s deputies those counties could employ for one full year. Or, we could spend the money to hire more than 3,000 firefighters, or more than 2,500 elementary school teachers.

And speaking of jobs we could create with all that Iraq money, it is ironic that politicians like Sen. Richard Burr keep voting to fund an unwinnable, unethical war, but voted against extending unemployment benefits to the people whose taxes have supported that war.

We as Americans should be ashamed at what politicians of both parties have done to (and in) Iraq, and now we are repeating the same mistake in Afghanistan. We must stop exporting soldiers, and stop trying to police the world. The cost is just too high, and all we have to show for it is the capture of a terrorist leader’s cook. I don’t know if bin Laden’s food is less tasteful now, but I’m finding our continued involvement in Iraq hard to swallow.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).