High cost of war warrants Obama’s deadline to finally leave Iraq

Andrew Justus

President Barack Obama’s television address on Aug. 31 announcing the formal end to combat operations in Iraq marked the beginning of decreasing our military involvement in that country and in Afghanistan, a chore that is likely only to begin in July 2011, according to the White House.

This withdrawal cannot advance quickly enough. The loss of more than 5,600 of our bravest citizens and expenses in excess of $1 trillion since 2001 are simply too great a sacrifice at this time when our country is under great stress.

The total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, having just passed the $1 trillion mark this August, has been completely financed by adding heavily to the national debt. This debt could one day place our country in the same peril Greece and other European countries are now facing.

Funding for both wars has been accomplished by selling treasury bonds or IOU’s purchased by individuals and even governments such as China, with the understanding the owners will be paid back with interest. These treasury bonds will turn a $1 trillion war thus far into one that is even more expensive when the time comes to pay back our loans with interest.

During his address, the president said the spending necessary to fund the two wars has hurt our ability to tackle challenges at home and invest in America’s future. He is right. With the amount we have spent since 2001 on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could fund the Department of Education for 20 years at current levels, we could pay for the Highway Trust Fund for 35 years, the Department of Energy would be funded for 51 years or we could have paid all NASA’s expenses for 57 years at 2010 levels.

Even though without the wars the money would have simply never been borrowed, having a lower debt load would have allowed the previous and current administrations to undertake more aggressive efforts domestically to solve problems such as transportation infrastructure.

Reducing our military commitments in those countries will also lessen the cost to our country in the loss of young lives and in lives permanently altered by the scars of war.

As of Aug. 22 there are 5,623 American men and women, according to the Washington Post, who returned home not to fanfare and hugs from loved ones but in metal boxes carried by precision honor guards wearing white gloves. In addition, 39,168 American soldiers, sailors and airmen have been physically wounded, according to Department of Defense data compiled by icasualties.org.

Until this point, the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan have believed that we Americans would never let them fail, that we would be there to bail them out no matter how inept and corrupt they prove themselves to be, that must change. It is time for those in Iraq and Afghanistan to do for themselves what we have been doing for them for several years— making sacrifices.

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