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Killing in the Name Of

April 28, 2006

Here is some news from The Independent:

However, even if everything goes relatively smoothly, costs until a phase-out is complete could top $370bn. This would make the Iraq conflict, now into its fourth year, more expensive financially than the Vietnam War, which lasted eight years. Vietnam claimed 58,000 American lives, far more than the almost 2,400 lost in Iraq thus far. But in today’s dollars it cost “only” $549bn, much less than the $690bn for Iraq, and a projected combined $811bn bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Iraq war set to be more expensive than Vietnam]

Your Montag is on the record as being against the war in Iraq— at least I think have been clear on this —and I think we are doing a disservice to our country financially by having this conflict, tax cuts for the wealthy and record budget deficits all at once. But let’s not be crass about this morbid financial benchmark. After all, it was just yesterday when Your Montag said exactly this:

This is a symptom of our money-centric definition of value. Blood and limbs are valuable, too.

And lives.

It was right there in the Independent article: “Vietnam claimed 58,000 American lives,” and I am sure the numbers are even more astounding on the Vietnamese side (estimates range well into the millions.) The Iraq war has seen the death of at least 34512 Iraqis and 2611 coalition forces thus far. The numbers are horrifying in both cases.

I guess what I am saying is that— assuming we are morally obligated to act and our objective is morally acceptable —wars should be judged in these terms: “Is achieving the objective worth the cost in human lives?”

Not: “Is achieving the objective worth the financial costs?”

Nor: “Can we achieve our objective in this war while killing fewer people than were killed in Vietnam?”

And certainly not: “Dollar for dollar, as compared with the Vietnam war, are we getting enough bang for our buck as it relates to the benefits of achieving our objective?”

Let’s first concentrate on the following questions:

  1. Were we morally obligated to act in Iraq?
  2. Are we morally obligated to continue?
  3. Is our objective in Iraq morally acceptable?
  4. Wait a minute. What the fuck is our objective in Iraq, anyway? Be honest.

We have to answer these questions before the human accounting can begin. I get the feeling that third one is going to be a fucking tough nut to crack, though. You can tell me all day our objective is to bring Western Democracy to Iraq, but when we’re torturing the population, setting up permanent military bases and prying the oil industry open to foreign investment, people are bound to wonder.

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One Comment
  1. April 28, 2006 7:57 PM

    The saddest part of this war, in my mind anyway, is that the Iraqi people are hanging in there despite our incompetence. The fact this country hasn’t exploded right off the map is a testament to how badly the Iraqis want us to succeed. By now, I anticipated things would be completely beyond hope. While it is undeniably horrible right now, I still think things could work with the right planning/guidance. Of course, this won’t happen with Bush in control, but you get my point. Given the opportunity, the protection, and the resources, I think the Iraqis would get the job done. Too bad Bush and Company don’t really care about the Iraqi people. Their moral balance sheet must be something to behold.

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