A couple of weeks ago Larison reminded us that the costs of Iraq are still with us. Citing a new report on a new study about Iraqi war deaths, Max Fisher of the Washington Post and Larison both come to the same conclusion—the war was worse for the Iraqis than we’ve been told. Rather than getting better as the war went on, things didn’t get that much better at all, at least in terms of mortality. And what other measure is there, really? This figure is actually considerably higher than the figures maintained by Iraq Body Count. Survey methods account for the difference—IBC uses only confirmed and identified deaths, whereas the newer study attempted to asses both direct and indirect mortality. The newer study was also conducted in conjunction with the Iraqi Ministry of Health. We imagine there will be more of these.
All of this reminds us that there are costs to these things, and these costs come in many forms. In America, the cost has been in rampant Bush-era deficits because no one actually authorized the money to pay for this thing, so the money had to be grabbed here and there as we went along. But Americans don’t want to hear this stuff. The only stories that one sees about Iraq these days, aside from feel-good (justifiably) stories about the Iraqi marshes or never-ending optimism about oil exports, are those that chronicle the daily bombing carnage. It seems to average 40-50 a day, doesn’t it? I don’t know if it really does, but the fact that the bombings continue is a problem, isn’t it? Of course, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it at this point, is there? We opened the box up, and putting everything back inside is no longer an option.
Still we are made to suffer the repeated insanity of outbursts by Rick Santorum and the monster Sheldon Adelson, who thinks nuking part of Iran is a good idea. Republicans are currently fracturing over several fault lines, it should be noted. Whether to fund infrastructure is one area of conflict; will enough Republicans ever give on increasing taxes and spending (or is American infrastructure now dead?). But the foreign policy question is critical. Whatever Rand Paul’s faults, and lord knows these are manifold, at least he anchors that small part of the party that seems less enthusiastic about entangling the US in further unnecessary foreign conflicts. But it’s a large battle, and will be going on for a while.
Perhaps the best way to resolve the issue is financially. Republicans are against raising taxes. And they seem to be against America paying its bills—or enough of them were to threaten the US with an outright default. But still, there’s that large bill for Iraq that we still haven’t even begun to pay. As Jospeh Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes suggested, it’s about $3 trillion, and growing. Throw in Afghanistan, and it’s up to $4 trillion to $6 trillion. A newer study suggested that Iraq alone may cost up to $6 trillion. Why? Because we put it all on the credit card. So maybe it’s time to start financing these adventures in a different way—in advance. Until we get there, though, this bill remains outstanding.
So here’s the bill, Mr. Party of Personal Responsibility. Pay up.