The War Bill Comes Due

As one who came of age during the Vietnam War years, I am amazed at the lack of protest over George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. Not only has the war now claimed the lives of 4,000 U.S. service men and women, it has killed 90,000 Iraqi civilians.

New estimates put the overall cost of the war at $3 trillion, a quantum leap from the Bush Administration’s original estimate of $50 billion. This is big, big money and is major reason for this country’s current economic woes since the war has grossly inflated the budget deficit and help triple the price of oil. The subprime mess, bursting of the real estate bubble and Wild West financing have been other major causes of the current woes. But the war does far more to negatively impact the U.S. economy that merely land use, which is a popular item, if overrated, of discussion on this blog.

Even more shameful is that the Weapons of Mass Destruction used as an excuse for the war didn’t exist. And, the neocons’ dream of creating a viable model of American-style democracy for the rest of the Middle East has become a bad joke. (See column in Bacons Rebellion).

Peter Galuszka

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    The Green Party is the ONLY political party that has been against the Iraq war from the start.

    Our Presidential candidate nomination takes place this summer.

  2. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    “the Weapons of Mass Destruction used as an excuse for the war didn’t exist”?!?!?!

    Ask the 10,000 Kurds gassed by “Chemical Ali.” Ask the Iranians, against whom they were used in the Iran-Iraq War.

    Maybe they were destroyed by Saddam. Maybe they were moved. But it is a symptom of Bush Derangement Syndrome to assert that “the Weapons of Mass Destruction used as an excuse for the war didn’t exist.” They certainly existed — and were used — at one time.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Young,
    You might want to review your history. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on Kurds in 1988. The war started in 2003 more than 10 years after Iraq was encircled and closely watched by the international community. That was more than 15 years after the Kurdish massacres. State and the CIA tried to report that there was no evidence of the WMD before Bush started the war. He ignored that evidence. Colin Powell went before the UN just before D-Day and embarrassed himself claiming there were weapons present that weren’t.These are facts. Sorry.

    Peter Galuszka

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Ron Paul continues to speak truth to power.

    He is the only Republican Presidential candidate to oppose both the war and the Federal Reserve’s monetary manipulation that created the bubble.

    Google Ron Paul.

  5. Groveton Avatar


    I generally agree with your views on the war in Iraq. It’s certainly hard (in retrospect) to see how this war was worth the costs (foremost in lives and personal injury but also in money). However, hindsight is always 20/20. I’d be interested in your views on two points.

    1. It seems reasonably well documented that Saddam Hussein was pretending to have more in the way of weapons of mass destruction than he really had. Presumably this hoax was to ward off attack (particularly from Iran or Israel). American intelligence should have seen through the hoax. Do you see any merit in the argument that some of the “weapons of mass destruction” misinformation was (in part) due to intentional fabrication by Saddam?

    2. Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction when we invaded. However, he was a very dangerous guy. During his tenure he gassed the Kurds, murdered thousands upon thousands of his own citizens, started a disasterous war with Iran, invaded Kuwait and paid bonuses to the families of suicide bombers who attacked Israel. He had a lot of money from the oil in Iraq and his two sons were (arguably) more psychotic than he was. Was any level of US military force justified? How would people view President Bush if he did not attack Iraq and Hussein could be traced to a terrorist attack on the US?

    Like I said – I think your views are generally correct. However, it seemed like a much closer call 5 years ago than it does today.

  6. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    PG: You haven’t made the econ case for the war screwing the economy or jacking up the price of oil.

    If you mean that excessive spending by the Federal government weakens the dollar – causing us to pay more – you have a point. But, much of the increase in the oil price is simple supply and demand. The increased demand in India and China is pressing on supply.

    Your comments on the causus belli ring both true and hollow for me.

    The WMD was the proximate excuse for acting when we (the U.S.) did. Sooner or later Saddam Hussein (not to be confused with King Hussein or Barack Hussein – just kidding!) was going to do something that would prove to be a very clear and present danger to the U.S. It was just a matter of time – in my opinion.

    The President should have asked for a Declaration of War. The Congress should have insisted on it. Didn’t happen.

    I wrote during major combat ops five years ago (The Long Hard Peace) and again and again that the Wilsonian rhetoric of making a Muslim democracy in the Middle East was wrong.

    Furthermore, Rumsfeld should have been fired in 03 for screwing up the war. I estimate that he cost us almost 2 years and over 1500 U.S. lives.

    Which leads us to where we are today. There are two positive outcomes possible.

    A threat, Saddam , maybe replaced with a more stable and secure government(s) in Iraq that is not a hostile threat to the U.S. maybe established for who knows how long.

    And, to date a lot of Islamists came to the killing fields of Iraq to die. I recall (and may be wrong shooting from my memory) the numbers of suicide bombers alone (not the homegrown Sunni or Shia factional fighters, but outsiders, foreigners, are over 4000 suicide dead. Killing many other Al Quiada (sp) guys in Iraq,instead of having to hunt them elsewhere, was worthwhile.

    The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan may be over in a few years or a few decades. Any “success” there may last months, years or decades – who knows? But, the long, long war against the Islamists will go on far longer.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton and James Atticus Bowden,

    My column should have made clear that I was referring to the new book by Stiglitz and Bilmes “The Three Trillion Dollar War.” They argue that the spike in oil prices was at least partly due to the war — the fast growing and energy-absorbing economices of China and India are part of it.
    They claim that the U.S. gets no real benefit from funding the war in an economic sense (other than some defense industries of which Virginia is a part, but that’s starting to decline).
    But if they are right that $3 trillion is the bill, then that HAS to have some impact on our economy since someone has to pay for it. Bush and his fellow Republicans are loath to raise taxes. So where is the money going to come from?
    Groveton, regarding your questions I’d say that of course Saddam was pretending to have such weapons. But we had him under the gun with No Fly Zones, sanctions and (some) inspections since Gulf War One. There was ample evidence that he didn’t have any WMDs. Unlike his father, Bush did not consult with our allies and ran a cowboy show on his own.
    Sure Saddam’s sons were as bad as he was but let’s not forget that during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Washington was playing its Saddam card against Iran and worked up a delicate game (with ships and planes to enforce) to make sure that neither side dominated and the Straits of Hormuz could be kept open, thus assuring no huge spike in oil. We played footsie with Saddam, just like the French and the Russians.
    J.A. Bowden, I appreciate your military points. Thanks.

    Peter Galuszka

  8. The Logician Avatar
    The Logician

    “The past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. It is with the future that we have to deal.” – de Goncourt

    I read the e-zine article, and was left with one glaring question… what was the point of the article other than to rehash widely accepted criticisms of the administration? (Not to mention what is this doing on a Virginia politics blog, but I digress).

    There were no WMD. We’ve known this for years. Establishing democracy in the Middle East is harder than we thought, although not really all that surprising in hind-sight. The handling of the war was bungled badly by all levels of the administration for the first two to three years of the occupation.

    Who’s to blame? Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the majority of congressmen (on both sides of the aisle) who gave Bush the carte blanch to invade, and the 80% of Americans who, at the time, got caught up in the wave of misguided Nationalism that enabled Bush, and made millions for pro-war country musicians (I’m looking at you, Toby Keith).

    But what good does it do to keep arguing this? The three trillion dollars is an obscene amount of money, but it’s a sunk cost. It’s a whole lot of spilled milk, but it’s still useless to cry over. Bush is out of office in 10 months, and all remnants of his political infrastructure will be wiped away no matter which party wins (save the Justices, of course, with whom we’re stuck).

    And now we’re there. We’ve opened up a Pandora’s Box of anti-American sentiment, and now, sad to say, we need to get those demons back into lockup. We desperately need to avoid the mistake we made in Afghanistan in the 80’s, where we drive out the desired enemy (be it the Soviets or the Baaths), and then leave a power vacuum to be filled by he with the fewest scruples. Afghanistan was a small country, and the Taliban was a small “government.” But look at the firestorm they were able to unleash. Allowing the radicals to get a foothold in Iraq, a country with oil revenues to work with, is putting the entire world at risk.

    I don’t like this anymore than anyone here. Trust me, I know all too well what a horrible scene that’s become. I’ve been there, and seen it first hand. Spent the better part of 2005 in Kirkuk, and feel the pain of every one of my brothers and sisters who has sacrificed their lives, their limbs, and their families and jobs back home for this cause. The REAL tragedy in all this is NOT the cost (money is important, but it’s just money). The cost to our military; its people, its resources, and its readiness, is the real price we’ll be paying for a generation.

    However… we made this bed. All of us, 5 years ago, when we failed to question those grainy aerial photos present at the UN, and cheered the Administration all the way to Baghdad. Now we all must lie in it until the job is done. Finger pointing for the sake of absolving one’s own guilt helps no one.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: we’re there and we have no choice.

    If the same people who got us into Iraq have their way – we’re going to be in Iran.

    Why is that?

    Imagine if other countries in the world acted as we have – invading other countries with “preemptive strikes” to deal with perceived threats.

    We should be thankful that the rest of the world has shown more restraint than we do.

    We don’t learn from our mistakes.

    We did this in Vietnam to stop the “Communist hordes”… from taking over SE Asia… remember?

    What exactly did we accomplish other than to sacrifice 50,000 young people and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese?

    and to this day.. we have folks who think we did the right thing.. and what is really scary is that the same folks …now are the ones supporting our actions in Iraq.

    We don’t learn from our mistakes.

    As soon as a generation passes, the neocons get us into another mess.

    I don’t buy the idea that we are there now and “have no choice”.

    there is no solution when you take this attitude and the Neocons have free rein to get us into future conflicts using the same excuse – “we are here and we have no choice”.

    when does it stop?”

    We have a big problem with how we deal with the world.

    No wonder our allies won’t stand with us and others hate us….

    and yet… we have folks that insist that we “have no choice”.

    next thing you know, we will have “no choice” but to go after Iran.

  10. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    There will be foreigners who hate the U.S. no matter what we do. Searching for popularity, especially among the socialists of dying Europe and the despots of Muslim countries is folly indeed.

    Foreign affairs is about realpolitik. National survival. Security and stability. Common interests. Maintaining alliances.

    There will be a number of military options if and when Iran presents a clear and present danger to the U.S.

    Leaders make mistakes. Mistakes cost lives and treasure. It is the way of the world.

    Back to the economics. How big is the U.S. budget? The defense portion of that shares the blame for weakening the dollar. If you want to fix things – curb spending.

    Or cut corporate taxes and personal taxes. Let capital produce capital. Cut regulation on energy production. Increase supply to reduce the price.

  11. I guess the problems in Virginia are so intractable that Jim Bacon allows “Gooze” free rein to peddle arguments on international issues that are much more coherent on sites devoted to those topics.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear “Iago”

    There is no rule that says this blog can’t address international topics from time to time.

    You say my column is incoherent but you don’t say why. Can you? If you are going to make that criticism you should be able to support it. The core of my argument is that two respected economists say the cost of the war is $3 trillion and that must have an impact on the U.S. economy (and Virginia). what is so incoherent about that?

    I’d sure be interested in your idea of which blogs are ideal for international issues.


    Peter “Gooze” Galuszka

  13. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Bacon’s Rebellion’s niche in the blogging marketplace is to focus on state and local public policy issues. Inevitably, state and local politicians must deal with the fall-out from national and international events. An excellent example is the impact of the sub-prime lending fiasco upon Virginia real estate markets, with a whole series of ripple effects on real estate assessments, tax revenues and tax policy. Another example is the impact of rising petroleum prices on energy costs generally, and the need for Virginia to rethink its transportation and land use policies.

    Peter’s blog entry was borderline. To my mind, Peter went astray when he raised the issues of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the NeoCons’ dream of promoting democracy in the Middle East. (I have strong feelings on the subject, but I chose not to comment because it’s not an issue that I want the blog to focus on.)

    But that caustic aside was peripheral to Peter’s main point (which came through more prominently if you read his column, as opposed to his short blog summary of the column): that the War in Iraq is a larger cause of U.S. economic woes than, say, the sub-prime lending mess.

    As far as I’m concerned, *that* is a legitimate topic for us to explore on Bacon’s Rebellion. Even as one who originally supported the invasion of Iraq and still hangs in there supporting the president, I’m no so blind as to deny that the war has been far more expensive to prosecute than even the pessimists originally envisioned. Only a fool would deny that the war has had negative economic consequences, including soaring federal deficits and, possibly, a loss in confidence in the value of the dollar. Those consequences, in turn, ripple through the Virginia economy.

    If Peter is right — and he may be in this case (though I would disagree with him on many other points) — resolving the sub-prime mortgage mess will solve only part of what’s ailing the economy. The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could hobble the U.S. economy, and Virginia’s, well into the future.

    To my mind, that is the topic that commenters should appropriately focus on.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Let me make a clarification to my previous comment. When I said that Peter’s blog entry was “borderline,” I was *not* referring to the quality of the writing, logic or evidence presented. I was referring to the appropriateness of the topic to Bacon’s Rebellion, a forum devoted to state and local public policy issues.

    However, Peter and I have known each other and worked with each other a long time, and I have a lot of respect for him (even when I don’t agree with him!). I like to give my co-contributors to this blog some leeway when they feel strongly about something. Furthermore, as I explained above, the economic impact of the War in Iraq is very germane to public policy in Virginia. Therefore, I concluded that the blog post, in the final analysis, did fall within the parameters of Bacon’s Rebellion subject matter.

  15. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    I appreciate Jim’s clarification, but I’d like to make a few points regarding this blog and what’s appropriate and what isn’t. A few points:

    (1) I have been reading Bacon’s Rebellion since it’s inception in 2002 and while it obviously has to do with state politics and public policy, I have never noticed that any particular topic is taboo. It is not for the Iagoes” of the world to arbit what’s allowable and not.

    (2) Virginia is, by its very nature and geography, impacted more than most other states by foreign affairs. After California, the state is No. 2 in the country in defense industries. It is home to the Pentagon and CIA, not to mention new agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, and has many experienced military and government officers on actvie duty or retired, who work and contribute to the state and, in fact, this blog. Hampton Roads is the most important port in the Mid-Atlantic and is a key component of U.S. trade policy. So, much of the state’s economy is driven by military and government spending and by affairs overseas. This, in turn, impacts everything from where Interstates are routed to where subdivisions are built to why the state weathers economic downturns better than many other places. It is short-sighted, if not downright stupid, to start putting up barriers to what can and cannot be written on the blog according to whether it is “Virginian” enough. Intellects should not stop at the state border. There should be no enforced parochialism here. The world is “flat” and the economy is “global.”

    (3) I am glad that Jim clarified his statement that my column was “borderline.” Since becoming a columnist last Fall, I have written about a dozen or more items and this is the only one that dealt primarily with foreign policy. My inspiration for it came from reading another blog item that blamed the current recession on “dysfunctional human settlement” patterns. I felt that that train of thought was short-sighted and that no one had mentionned the war or Bush very much (perhaps because there are so many Republicans on this blog). I bought the book I cite, read it and paid Jim the courtesy of making sure he had time to read it last Thursday before posting it. He responded that he couldn’t disagree with much of it, but he suggested deleting a phrase that he thought was off-base. I agreed to do so. I was surprised that Jim thought that my column was “borderline” since he had had ample opportunity to say so last week, but now I understand what he meant. By the way, my column is not unique. Nicholas Kristoff wrote in the Sunday Times “Week in Review” section March 23 making similar points. So it puzzles me that some bloggers found my reasoning incoherent. The part of the no-WMDs and the neocons’ intent are facts that cannot be disputed. Once again, the only reason I guess they are controversial are that most of the Blog readers are Republicans who are embarrassed by Bush and would rather that he not be brought up.

    (4) I do have a strong interest in foreign affairs because it was my major in college and I have spent 10 years dealing with it on a daily basis as a journalist, including six overseas.

    I hope that Bacon’s Rebellion can continue to be a source of reasonable discourse since it is one of the top ones in the state. I hope I don’t offend too many with my criticisms and opinions. They are not personal. But it would be a tragedy if certain bloggers are allowed to shout down views they don’t like by pretending to be the deciders of what is “appropriate” or not. I’d hate to see viewpoints subjected to some idiotic test of whether they think the ideas are appropriately “Virginian” or not.

    Peter Galuszka

  16. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    PG: Enjoyed reading your last comment until the last line. Surely, somethings, like cheering for the Dallas Cowboys, are “un-Virginian”. N’est-ce pas?

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Rooting for the Dallas Cowboys by anyone is an idea too hateful to even contemplate, Virginian or no.

    Peter Galuszka

  18. not iago the censor Avatar
    not iago the censor

    I wasn’t trying “to arbit what’s allowable and not” or be one “to shout down views they don’t like by pretending to be the deciders of what is ‘appropriate’ or not.” I just made a comment. Funny how it touched a nerve. I notice that Mr. Galuszka rarely gives anyone commenting with an opposing view to his much credence.

    I didn’t say Mr. Galuszka’s piece was was “incoherent.” (I also notice he likes to put words in commenter’s comments or paint broad strokes like “most of the Blog readers are Republicans who are embarrassed by Bush and would rather that he not be brought up.” So much for “reasonable discourse.”) I just happen to know that there are blogs that deal with Iraq on a regular basis, so there’s a continuing review and analysis of the latest thinking on the topic–a “coherent” path or thread one can follow. Check them out on a blogroll like Instapundit’s. On this blog, a post about Iraq appears out of nowhere next to human settlement patterns and clean buses.

    Hey, that’s ok. Write what you want and congratulate yourself for it. Hopefully, we can vote in November for a candidate who will get us out of Iraq pronto and put us on one big HOT route back to prosperity.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Not Iago the Censor,
    What, exsctly, is the “latest” thinking on Iraq?

    Peter Galuszka

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    JAB –

    Just wanted to complement you on an excellent piece, I agree with nearly everything (I did argue before the start of the war, and continue to that the Bush I/ Clinton’s containement strategy was keeping Saddam in line). Not to be trite, that’s water under the bridge now.


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