Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Human Cost of Bush's War

From time to time, we're given different figures for the cost of Bush's fiasco in Iraq. I'm one of those who believes we're engaging in a trillion dollar war. Some would argue it's a two trillion dollar war. So many blunders have been made in Iraq and so much attention diverted from Afghanistan that it's no longer certain we'll be able to finish the job in Afghanistan, a potentially winnable war that became badly neglected only a few months after the fall of Kabul when Bush and his advisers were eagerly getting ready to invade Iraq. The size of Bush's strategic blunders are still not fully appreciated by the public.

In the meantime, Bush's budget is a fiasco in and of itself. We have veterans who have been injured in two wars and need care and who otherwise have earned the right to access to the VA medical system. The Houston Chronicle carried an editorial a week ago about the need to make sure the VA has the money for medical care and that Americans understand the hidden cost that must be added to the price tag of Bush's Iraq folly:
The Iraq war has unfurled a chronicle of terrible surprises — from the number of dead to the duration of the conflict to the metastatic nature of the insurgents. New reports are showing another stunning surprise: the price of benefits and care for our returning veterans.

(snip)

So far, about one in five returning soldiers has been at least partially disabled, The New York Times reported. According to recent research by Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda Bilmes, disability benefits for veterans injured in Iraq will cost $122 billion.

(snip)

...Veterans Administration hospitals are overwhelmed by returnees needing care. In the first quarter of this year, 144,000 Iraq war veterans have sought the health care they earned. That's 23 percent more than the government projected for all four quarters of this year.

The cost of caring for veterans is only a fraction of the growing price tag for the whole conflict — a war the president's budget office originally reckoned would cost $60 billion. Today, researchers at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Stiglitz and Bilms estimate the total cost to the American public at between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

Treating and supporting our veterans is a non-negotiable cost of war. ...

In his final two years, we need to make sure Bush does more than just talk about the sacrifices our military has made.

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