The cost of war in Iraq on the 9th anniversary to the taxpayers of Michigan – $18 billion and counting
Today is the 9th anniversary of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq that began on March 19, 2003.
Much has been written in the past about the US war in Iraq, but since there was a draw down of US troops at the end of 2011, the assumption is that war/occupation is over.
The fact is that the US maintains an ongoing troop presence even after the Status of Forces Agreement known as SOFA. There is no consensus on exactly how many US soldiers remain in Iraq, but former State Department member Peter Van Buren, who served in Iraq, estimates there are at least 17,000 US personnel operating in Iraq, many of whom are soldiers. The difference is that these soldiers were transferred from being under the command of the US military to the US State Department.
The ongoing function of the US soldiers and State Department staff is to maintain security for the US embassy in Baghdad, plus operate and protect at least 15 other facilities throughout the country, most of which are military bases. There are also thousands of private mercenaries still operating in Iraq as contract soldiers through the US government.
The other major function of US troops and State Department specialist is to make sure that Iraq’s vast oil resources continue to be exploited by foreign oil companies, a fact that independent journalist Dahr Jamail reported on earlier this year.
The US invasion/occupation of Iraq was never about WMDs or promoting democracy, it was always about gaining access to Iraq’s oil resources and setting up permanent military bases for greater control of the Middle East.
The question that those of us who claim to stand for justice is, at what cost was/is the ongoing US occupation of Iraq? What follows are not just statistics or bullet points, but realities in which the US should be held accountable for and pay massive reparations. This is an important point, because despite the claims that President Obama got us out of Iraq, his administration not only maintains an occupation and he never acknowledged that the war/occupation was unjust. Obama has said he thinks the justification that Iraq had WMDs was wrong, but he has never said the US invasion/occupation was wrong.
The costs of the 9 years of the US invasion/occupation are also not completely adequate, since they do not reflect the cost of the 1991 US war against Iraq that devastated the country, nor the 13 years of US imposed sanctions on Iraq that resulted in at least 500,000 dead Iraqi children.
1. $802 Billion and counting – this is the amount of US tax dollars that have been spent so far on the war/occupation of since 2003, according to the National Priorities Project. That amount translates into $18 billion leaving the State of Michigan to fund the war in Iraq and $288 million and counting that has left Grand Rapids. We start with the monetary costs to US taxpayers, because it demonstrates the absurd priorities of the US government, especially when so many Americans are living in poverty, losing their homes and have no health care.
2. 1,455,590 – this is the number of Iraqis who have died from the US invasion/occupation since 2003, according to Just Foreign Policy.
3. 4486 – this is the number of US soldiers that have died in Iraq since March of 2003, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.
4. Billions in war contracts – Private companies have made out like bandits by profiting off of so-called reconstruction projects as well as benefiting from the alteration of the Iraqi Constitution, which opened up their economy to allow foreign multinationals to plunder Iraq’s wealth. (see Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine)
5. Radioactive Iraq – Iraq is highly contaminated by the US military’s use of Depleted Uranium in both the 1991 war and the 2003 war/occupation. The Depleted Uranium will plague Iraq for generations to come with birth defects, leukemia and cancer.
6. Torture of thousands of Iraqis – The legacy of US perpetrated torture in Iraq is hard to quantify, but we know that thousands of Iraqis were detained and tortured by US military personnel according to numerous source, including Wikileaks documents. While there were some low level soldiers prosecuted for these crimes, no high ranking official – the ones who gave the orders – were ever charged or prosecuted for torture.
7. Environmental destruction from the war/occupation – Little has been written about the ecological consequences to the US war/occupation, but desert eco-systems have been destroyed, there has been a massive die off of wildlife and contamination left from the burning of oil fields to the use of Depleted Uranium.
8. Over 2 million Iraqi refugees - there is no exact amount, but the United Nations and the Red Crescent both estimate that over 2 million Iraqis fled their homes and the country over the past 9 years of war and occupation.
9. Increased anti-American sentiment – It should not be a surprise to anyone that the US war/occupation of Iraq not only increased the amount of acts of terror against the occupying forces, it has created a whole generation that has nothing but contempt for the US. This anti-American sentiment is impossible to quantify, but it is likely to have devastating effects for years to come.