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Was It Worth It?
April 9, 2003
By a_random_joel

As with any purchase, most Americans want to know if they are getting what they paid for. In other words, we want to know if we're getting the most "bang for our buck". In these cynical times of infomercials, telemarketers, network marketing schemes, spam, and a perpetual barrage of advertising, Americans tend to be rightly skeptical and cautious before committing their hard-earned dollar. Should we not expect the same from our government? Ask any conservative, watching our budget like the proverbial bean counter. Surely our government would not resort to the same cheap, desperate tactics these other low-level marketers utilize when rolling out a new product?

So America, here is your invoice to date: at least $80 billion dollars (that's $80,000,000,000 for the fuzzy-math challenged), 80 American soldiers' lives thus far, not to mention 7 POWs, several MIAs, and over 150 wounded. There are also British casualties to be considered - but maybe they need their own invoice. Throw in a few domestic and foreign journalists. No accurate numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties exist, but the deaths are reported to be in the hundreds, and the injured are reported to number in the thousands. Most Americans would consider this to be worthy of a separate invoice as well, but I consider the blood of innocents to be a price our great and moral nation should be willing to at least go Dutch on.

Then there are the fractured relationships we must attempt to mend in the international community. "We don't need no stinkin' U.N.", comes the cry from the heartland. Fine, if reduction of American reputation, safety, and international goodwill, as well as severed alliances and strategic partnerships are the price we are willing to pay, then certainly we must include these in the bill. After all, greater presidents than Bush - including his father - spent the last century investing and building up these relationships. The bennies included greater security for America and American interests, better business opportunities, and allowed us to win the Cold War.

And let us not forget that the true cost of this war may not be felt any time in the immediate future. The admitted increase in resentment in the Arab world and any resulting terrorist actions that our Iraq adventure may be breeding now may not be felt right away. We hope and pray that such reactions are not forthcoming, but we may never truly know how many bin Ladens we've bought these past couple of weeks.

I ask again, was it worth it? What amounts to a new reality TV show for many of the most ardent war supporters, as they crack open beer cans and snacks for the nightly viewing, doesn't even have the blood and violence of any of the new video games. I've seen better pyrotechnics displays on Monday Night Raw than from Shock and Awe. If you want to see the latest and greatest toys of our military, there are a number of shows on Discovery, TechTV and the History Channel to satisfy even the biggest Jane's fans among us.

So what exactly did we pay for? A false sense of security? Even a thoroughly Anglo-American, locked down, patrolled, martial-law imposing occupation of Iraq will not be able to stop desperate men there from conducting future operations. Just ask the Israelis. And the likely increase in terrorism as a result of this war - documented by numerous experts including Tenet and Ridge, along with the decrease in intelligence cooperation from our "allies" makes me wonder if we were not sold a dry bill of goods.

Did we buy the Iraqis freedom? And is this the same kind of freedom we have here, where anti-war protestors are threatened, arrested, slandered and told to keep quiet for the good of the country? Please let me know, because if I'm paying for Democracy I want to make sure that I'm not getting the reduced-rights version.

And while we're on that subject, can we make sure they have a better electoral system in place? I mean, is there really much of a difference between the "Saddam - Yes/No" ballot and the ballots the Supreme Court filled out?

Speaking of democracy, do you wonder if the Afghans are getting a little jealous of the attention Iraq is getting considering it's been almost two years since we "liberated" them, and they still haven't seen the fruits of what we promised them?

Listen, I am no apologist for Saddam Hussein and will be very happy to see him go, but at what price? I find it ridiculously hard to believe that the average conservative gives a damn about the plight of the Iraqi people. They sure as hell don't give a damn about many of their fellow Americans. How odd that the gassing of the Kurds is such a horror, 15 years after the fact. How odd that these very same Kurds, whom the pro-war crowd is so pumped up to rescu,e were not a big deal when Bush 41 turned his back on them and they were slaughtered - as were the Shias.

But selective rescue is not a new concept for America. For all the blathering about "saving the French's asses" and the comparisons made about Hussein to Hitler and how great we were for stopping Hitler and not appeasing him - I'd like to remind my patriotic friends that we did not enter World War II until we were attacked, almost three years after the war started. We also turned down visa requests to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Jews and others seeking asylum from Hitler's brutality.

And how long did it take for us to get involved in Bosnia? And how much criticism was heaped on Clinton for doing so? And how many other repressive, brutal despots and dictators, many of them with ties to terrorism and WMD exist today that we are not taking action towards? The short list includes North Korea, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, Iran - but arguably includes Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Now it turns out that the real reason for this war, at least the one that was initially marketed - WMD - and not the one that has been gradually shifted to in the past few weeks - Iraqi liberation - may also turn out to have been oversold. Even if some evidence is found in the coming days or weeks - it would be highly suspect to think that Hussein would not have used them by now. It reminds me of that old Robin Williams riff about Qaddafi. "There is a line of death, you cross it you die!", "Okay, you cross this line, you die!"," Ok, this line!", etc. And, knowing that Hussein chose not to use these weapons, if he has them, even with impending death facing him directly, I am even more unconvinced of this threat than before the war began.

Further, realizing that our military has thus far obliterated opposition in a relatively quick and easy manner due to our overwhelming tactical and technological superiority - much like putting Mike Tyson in the ring against a paraplegic - I am even further unconvinced that Iraq posed any threat whatsoever to us or its neighbors. It is ironic that the fratricide ratio is about even with the number of deaths caused by the Iraqi opposition. And through it all was our great leader claiming, much like the crusaders of old, that victory was not only certain, but divinely granted.

Which is rather curious. Without getting too religious here, as I wish Bush would as well, it seems odd that the divine power would, like the pro-war crowd, selectively choose convenient moments to rescue the Iraqis. Bush's dad didn't have this divine seal of approval, or at least it wasn't spoken of. But he did manage to get the French on board, so that's something. Does any of the pro-war crowd stop to consider the reasoning behind Bush 41's desire to not close the deal (which was actually to avoid a power vacuum in the region vis--vis Iran)? And keeping in mind bin Laden's fate, and knowing Hussein has still not been captured or killed, one questions if Bush 43, like his father, is not a finisher. Almost makes you wonder where those twins came from...

The sad truth in all of this is that this war has not even been paid for. We have put it on the card, and we are expecting future generations to pay off the balance. Not just financially, but diplomatically and with potential long-term increases in threats to our security. We have not scratched the surface of post-war Iraq and the subsequent costs this will entail. Again, I am reminded of Afghanistan. We have been promised the coupons of Iraqi oil to provide a discount to offset these costs - but most of us are able to see through this as the cash cow to American oil interests that it is. Corporations will pay back the access to these opportunities in the form of soft-money donations to the Bush administration, to keep them in power so they can hunt for more opportunistic bargains.

Ah, the power of the pyramid scheme. I wonder how so few Americans seemingly cannot see how bad a deal they were dealt. How, like the victims of a bad alarm salesman, they so easily fell for the fear pitch. Or the bait and switch of the WMD - no wait, Iraqi liberty - at reduced prices. Act now!

And perhaps most disturbing of all, why did so many of my fellow Americans never bother to read the fine print?

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