(Urbana) Four years ago this month the US launched an illegal, immoral and ill-thought-out war of aggression against Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of needless deaths and billions of wasted (and much needed) dollars later, the Bush Administration is threatening another unprovoked war, this time against Iran.
Local opponents of this shoot-first policy will gather twice in coming weeks to mark the anniversary and to protest. And some will make the long trek to Washington DC to protest there.
First, locally, on Thursday March 15 at 11am, anti-war students will march from the Illini Union down Green Street, then back for a rally on the Quad at 12noon.
And on Monday March 19 at 12noon, community members opposed to war will hold a vigil for peace at the Veterans’ Memorial, Champaign County Courthouse, NW corner of Main and Broadway, to call on Congress to end the war with Iraq and prevent war with Iran.
Anger is liable to run high nationwide on the anniversary, as anti-war activists and military families get, in the immortal words of Fanny Lou Hamer, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Many in the anti-war community are increasingly impatient with the lack of responsiveness on the war among elected officials. If massive demonstrations against the invasion in 2003 seemed to have little effect on foreign policy, recent mid-term elections – almost universally viewed as a referendum on the war and the President – seemed to have the exact opposite effect of the intended one: the Administration proposed not plan for withdrawal but plan for a “surge”. As some observers predicted, the new Democratic Congress passed a non-binding resolution against the surge, and the President went ahead with his plan.
Moreoever, the fate of the various Democratic anti-war proposals is extemely shaky. Democratic leaders vowed, the day after the recent elections swept them to Congressional control, never to de-fund the war. Then, with increased popular pressure and an election looming, several Democrats proposed bills to do just that. Some of the bills also called for troop withdrawal by certain dates, or for the President to seek Congressional approval before invading Iran. But Democratic leaders announced today (AP, March 12) that this last requirement is dead. (Cynics among us might say it is no great loss, because Congress always gives their approval.)
The President is of course promising to veto even the rump bill, requiring withdrawal from Iraq by December 2008 after the next national election, and still gives him $100 billion for war including more than he requested for Afghanistan and for “training and equipment shortages”. The waffling, anti-war activists across the country have been saying is easy to explain: without pressure from war opponents – hard pressure – the Democrats will back off. The less pressure, the more retreat.
“The mud is getting wetter”
Focus of opposition to the war has often been the Bush Administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, specious connections to al-Qaeda and egregious violations of international treaties to which the US is signatory: laws against aggressive wars, against torture, etc. But anti-war activists have also paid considerable attention to worsening conditions for the Iraqi people, and for US and allied troops, conditions that have gained considerably less play in the mainstream media.
Yet these conditions arguably have more anti-war motivating potential, particularly for the fabled “middle ground” or the un-usual suspects, than all the legalistic and fine debating points in the world (correct though they may be). Frequent updates on how bad things are in Iraq, and for those returning from there, are perhaps in order.
At a minimum 58,598 civilians may have been killed in Iraq since the US invased their country in March 2003, according to reports collected on one website, possibly as many as 64,405. The site – http://www.iraqbodycount.org
– is well researched and documented, and has become a standard source, since US General Tommy Franks infamous remark that “we don’t do body counts” – any more, that is – body counts caused so much trouble in Vietnam.
But these numbers don’t begin to tell the story. Lily Hamourtziadou, a researcher for Iraq Body Count, tracks news stories and reports on a weekly basis. It’s a gruesome and deeply disturbing log. At the time of this writing, for example, “675 civilians were reported dead this week, most of them pilgrims on their way to or returning from Karbala; moreover, there was another major attack with over 50 deaths, the 8th this year. As the Iraqis say, ‘the mud is getting wetter,’ meaning that things are getting worse.”
Hamourtziadou also reported ealier this month on a more widespread toll the war is taking, one that is arguably more serious than the actual death count, in that it affects many times more people, most of the children, and will likely go on killing and otherwise essentially torturing them for years even if the US pulled out yesterday:
“Living conditions are still deteriorating for Iraqi citizens. It was announced this week that the last major British charity working in Iraq is pulling out, as the worsening security situation makes it impossible to safeguard staff. Save the Children UK has announced that, after 15 years in the country, it is to shut its office, as it can no longer reach the children it tries to help. The charity repaired and equipped schools and hospitals in the aftermath of the invasion, and lobbied for children’s rights to be included in the new Iraqi constitution. Many other British charities have already pulled out of Iraq; Care International closed its operations there in 2005, after the abduction and murder of Margaret Hassan, its director in Iraq. This is very bad news for Iraqi children, because they desperately need help and care. Children in Iraq form 50% of the population and around 8% are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition. Poverty and insecurity are the main causes of their deteriorating diets. With insecurity forcing the closure of many health centres, and hospitals and clinics lacking medicines and specialists, Iraq’s population is increasingly being cut off from access to proper healthcare, say officials at UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.”
Of course, tallies of US and allied dead are no more heartening. US confirmed dead according to the US Department of Defense have now hit 3,195. Another site (http://cryptome.org/mil-dead-iqw.htm
) puts the total at 3,430 dead, including 234 in Afghanistan and 1 at Guantanamo. The site also notes the total US military deaths in Iraq ad Afghanistan “since the Democrats won and promised withdrawal”: 370.
UK dead have topped 130 and other allied military deaths are almost as high. Iraqi security forces and civilian deaths since January 2006 alone exceed 22,000, according to another website that tracks news and DoD reports (http://icasualties.org/oif/
). The only groups that have stopped losing lives to the war in Iraq are those that have left, an option not really open to most Iraqis as borders continue to slam shut in their faces – another violation of international law.
The hidden suffering
Among the rosy predictions provided generously by the White House before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 were of course the low-low financial costs: small precentages of the Gross Domestic Product, notes MSNBC, the federal budget (then relatively healthy), and agreeable comparisons to past wars.
“White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was the exception to the rule, offering an ‘upper bound’ estimate of $100 billion to $200 billion in a September 2002 interview with The Wall Street Journal. That figure raised eyebrows at the time, although Lindsey argued the cost was small, adding, ‘The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.’”
Alas. According to the Boston Globe (September 28, 2006), “a new congressional analysis shows the Iraq war is now costing taxpayers almost $2 billion a week – nearly twice as much as in the first year of the conflict three years ago and 20 percent more than last year – as the Pentagon spends more on establishing regional bases to support the extended deployment and scrambles to fix or replace equipment damaged in combat.”
At that time an internal assessment by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service predicted “the total cost of military operations at home and abroad since 2001, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will top half a trillion dollars.”
Current estimates of the cost of the war far surpass, even double Lindsey’s ‘upper bound’ – and well overtake the Globe’s projections just six months ago. According to http://costofwar.com
, the updated $400 billion price tag translates as $22 billion for the state of Illinois, and $125 million for Champaign and Urbana. And these figures represent more than bank accounts, VCRs, SUVs and pizza delivery.
That money would have insured 244 million children for one year, 13 million of them in Illinois, and 75,000 in Champaign-Urbana.
It also might have hired 7 million public school teachers for a year, 382,000 of them in Illinois, and 2,000 right here in Champaign-Urbana.
It also could have built over 3.5 million housing units, over 198,000 in Illinois, 1000 of them in our community.
And so on. Others have pointed to such figures to greater effect. The argument is nothing new. But this, too, perhaps bears updating – as ‘the mud gets wetter’.
Even if the U.S. exits Iraq within another three years, reports MSNBC this month, the total economic impact of the war in Iraq may top $2 trillion (March 17, 2006). What news outlets like MSNBC don’t add is this: unless we, you and I, stop it.
For more info:
March 15 march and rally - www.anti-war.net
March 19 Vigil - Robert Naiman 979-2857
Bus to Washington DC protest - Pete (708) 828-9926