Based on media reports, elected officials at the highest levels of government in the United States are expressing concern ranging from apprehension to alarm about the size of the federal deficit.
Some members of Congress and those who share the Tea Party concept of government complain about federal spending. This concern supposedly was why Congress allowed unemployment benefits for people who had been unemployed for six months or more to expire on June 2.
If the Tea Party, Blue Dogs Democrats and other so-called “fiscal conservatives” such as Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Steve Forbes and others are truly concerned about integrity – fiscal or otherwise – they should be complaining about the billions of dollars spent to wage war in Iraq.
According to the National Priorities Project, the United States has allocated $747.3 billion – almost three-fourths of a trillion dollars – for the war in Iraq since 2003. Here are six examples of what the same amount of money could have done for Arkansas, my home state:
· 2,080,756 people – more than the entire population of Arkansas – could have been provided low-income healthcare for one year;
· 155,419 police or sheriff’s patrol officers could have been employed for one year;
· 166,758 firefighters could have been employed for a year;
· Scholarships for 1,083,707 university students could have been provided for one year;
· 1,261,201 students could have received Pell grants of $5,550 each to attend college; or
· Head Start could have been funded to cover 1,103,815 children for a year.
Mind you, the $747.3 billion allocated to wage war in Iraq does not include any money that must be spent to treat thousands of wounded and disabled service members. If the Department of Defense website is accurate, 13,982 service members were wounded in action and not returned to duty, and 17,915 others were wounded and returned to duty.
The Iraq war cost tally also does not include what the nation owes to survivors of the 4,417 military and Department of Defense civilians killed in Iraq as of Aug. 2, 2010, 10 a.m., Eastern Time. We should have long ago confronted the hypocrisy of people who profess to cherish human life but never challenge a war that has claimed almost 4,500 American lives, perhaps hundreds of thousands more in Iraq, and permanently scarred countless others.
Long before now, most ethically sound people should have dismissed as hypocrites the people who denounce spending money to help unemployed working people survive the current recession but who have never opposed the seven-year-old war in Iraq.
And we should have dismissed as moral cowards or moral frauds those who said “I want my country back” when the nation debated enacting national healthcare insurance reform, but who never thought the country was at risk morally, intellectually, socially, militarily and geopolitically because of the quagmire called Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When almost $10 billion allocated for the war in Iraq cannot be accounted for, people who understand the difference between integrity and hypocrisy owe God and each other much more than hand-wringing and head-shaking about the nation’s budgetary woes. We should be outraged about the hypocritical conduct and conversation surrounding it.
Wendell L. Griffen is pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark., and also owner/CEO of a consulting firm. He lives with his wife in Little Rock.
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, and a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion.