The House of Representatives this week takes up a spending bill analysts say would bring the total cost of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001, to at least $875 billion.
Last week President Bush asked lawmakers for $70 billion to fund the war into next spring, after he leaves office. House Democrats planned to tack on domestic measures including extended unemployment assistance for jobless people and educational benefits for returning veterans, setting up what is expected to be the last major partisan policy battle of the Bush administration.
The president has said he will veto any funding bill exceeding his total request of $108 billion, but Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are betting he won’t kill a measure that helps returning soldiers and the long-term unemployed and if he does, Republicans won’t be willing to face the political risk of voting to sustain his veto.
Pelosi reportedly went behind closed doors on Tuesday to try to sell the bill to anti-war Democrats, who want to link any additional war spending to a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Republicans were expected to fight the bill through procedural attacks on the House floor, upset because it bypasses formal channels of the House Appropriations Committee.
“Whatsoever you sow, that shall you also reap,” said Larry McSwain, professor of ethics and leadership at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta. “There is no seeming end to fallacious war decisions that now approach $1 trillion in costs.”
Miguel De La Torre, associate professor of social ethics and director of the Justice and Peace Institute at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, lamented the loss of $875 billion to “conduct a war that promised to eliminate WMD that did not exist, sever an Al Qaeda link that was never connected and make Iraq a recruiting field for future terrorists.”
De La Torre said every U.S. household will be responsible for $7,922 of the war debt. With that money, he said, Americans could have built 58,000 new elementary schools or provided 71 million college students with a year of scholarship.
Even more costly, he said, “are the 4,071 U.S. soldiers, who died in vain, the 29,911 wounded who lives are forever shattered, and the uncountable number who will wrestle with post-traumatic stress in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, or broken marriages.”
“And of course, let us not forget the 1,205,000 plus Iraqis who died since the start of the conflict are just as precious in God’s eyes,” De La Torre said. “As a nation, we will stand before the throne of God and give an account for these figures. May Heaven help us.”
McSwain gave Bush some credit. “At least the president has included $750 million in food aid to offset some of the costs of the crisis in food costs now being created by failed energy policies,” he said.
“The Baptist Center for Ethics opposed the Iraqi war six months before the war was launched on the grounds that it did not pass the time-honored rules of just war and that the U.S. had not exhausted efforts at conflict resolution,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Nashville, Tenn.,-based BCE. “A few days before the war started, we warned in an editorial that the ‘president has neither shared with the American people the real financial costs of this war, nor asked for genuine sacrifice.'”
“The war now costs $5,000 per second, and regrettably the new leadership in Congress lacks the wisdom and fortitude to stop funding it,” Parham said. “Too many Democrats have enabled the Republican war machine for too long. Shame on both parties.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.