Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The costs of war

Little wars tend to metastasize. They are nourished by chaos. Government employees in Nevada direct drones to kill insurgents in Afghanistan. The repercussions can be felt years later. We kill coldly, for reasons of policy - omitting, for reasons of taste, that line from Mafia movies: Nothing personal. But revenge comes back hot and furious. It's personal, and we no longer remember why.
The Great Afghanistan Reassessment has come and gone and, outside of certain circles, no one much paid attention. In this respect, the United States has become like Rome or the British Empire, able to fight nonessential wars with a professional military in places like Iraq. Ultimately, this will drain us financially and, in a sense, spiritually as well. "War is too important to be left to the generals," the wise saying goes. Too horrible, too.

The above is from Richard Cohen's "A stranger's wars" in today's Washington Post. Staying with the Post, yesterday's "CERP Funds" noted the Washington Post graph on the issue of the $3.8 billion already put into CERP funds [Commander's Emergency Response Program] and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report (from Baghdad) on the issue. Sharon Grigsby (Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Dallas Morning News) weighed in on the Post's story at her paper's blog concluding, "It's important that Congress thoroughly vet these changes to assure -- before writing this latest $1.3 billion check -- that this is money worth spending. The abuses cited in this story referenced above raise serious questions." Moving from US to Iraqi money, the Voice of Russia reports, "Corruption caused about $1 billion in harm to the Iraqi economy in 2010. This was announced on Monday by the television channel Al-Sharqiya citing the head of the Iraqi Commission on Combating Corruption, Rahim Ala." RIA Novosti adds, "A total of 709 high-ranking state officials, including nine ministers and 75 department chiefs were convicted of corruption last year." Lastly on money, Nake M. Kamrany and Megan Sieffert (Huffington Post)attempt to provide a dollar estimate for the Iraq War damages: "In several studies, estimates of Iraq war damages sustained by the United States have ranged around $1-$3 trillion. In this current study, measure of war damages sustained by the people and country of Iraq is estimated at $394.4 billion. This figure consists of 66,081 individuals who lost their lives. The present value of their work life earnings and pain and suffering of their heirs amounted to $14.2 billion. Moreover 176,382 individuals sustained injuries ranging from 100% disability to 25% disability incurring monetary damages for medical care and loss of earnings in the amount of $6.0 billion. The war caused 1.9 million individual Iraqi's to emigrate outside of Iraq leaving the war behind including their jobs and property sustaining $30.8 billion of damages. Another 2.65 million Iraqis migrated internally from violent regions to less violent regions in Iraq who sustained damages of $33.9 billion. The economy of Iraq lost 27 years of economic progress. The decline in lost Iraqi GDP caused by the war is estimated at $309.5 billion."

Meanwhile Press TV notes, "Six mortar shells were fired on Monday at the US base north of Hillah, the capital of Babil province, Aswat al-Iraq news agency quoted a police source in the al-Mahawil district." Al Jazeerah notes Aswat al-Iraq also reported a US military vehicle was hit by explosives "in west of Diwaniya" yesterday and that "American forces cordon off the whole region, preventing vehicles coming from Najaf to enter the province for hours." This follows the death of 2 US soldiers on Sunday.

"2010 in books (Martha & Shirley)" was the latest yearly survey Martha and Shirley do of books in the community and topping the list for book of the year was Deborah Amos' Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. We'll close with this from Amos' report yesterday on All Things Considered (NPR):

DEBORAH AMOS: One thing you notice in Iraq, it's a very young country. Sixty-five percent of the population is under 25, and they often express themselves in surprising ways.

These four young men, all under 25, get together to play heavy metal music. Their dark lyrics reflect their view of life in Baghdad.

(Soundbite of music)

AMOS: Abu Ghraib is Iraq's infamous prison, the song has this refrain: War after war is consuming our age, war after war with no limit to rage.

Mr. HUMAM IBRAHIM: It's our life. We live in war. We are raised on war.

Mr. RAFI SA'IB: It talks about our situation, our society.

AMOS: Humam Ibrahim and Rafi Sa'ib say heavy metal music is how they express what they see and what they feel.

Mr. IBRAHIM: It's been seven years, nothing changed. It's getting worse.

Mr. SA'IB: It's worse.

Mr. IBRAHIM: I hate politics.

AMOS: The music is unusual in Iraq, but the anger and disillusion among this group of friends, Christian and Muslim, confirms new findings about young Iraqis, says Eric Davis, a political scientist at Rutgers University.

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