Click here for Part I of this series.
Democrats have hinted at an ambitious domestic agenda by their choices for the first 100 hours of the new Congress. This "down payment" will consist of an increase in the minimum wage, a reduction in college tuition, among other things.
The Democratic majority is upbeat about establishing a domestic agenda including additional funds for health care and education. But, the unassailable fact is that the war is devouring the hopes for any domestic agenda. Each and every vote to fund the war is a vote to drive the United States deeper into debt and further away from humane aspirations.
Budget Authority for Iraq (Billions $)
In the spring of 2007 a new Supplemental Appropriations bill, estimated in published reports at $130 billion will be brought to Congress. Added to the $70 billion bridge fund, this equals $200 billion for Iraq in FY2007 alone. Compare this with $117.6 Billion for all missions in FY06.
Without the cost of the Iraq war the Department of Defense's budget exceeds $400 billion annually. In a period of just two years, from FY2007 through FY2009, the combined DOD and the Iraq war spending could cost our nation over $1 Trillion!
It is a destructive fiscal policy. Worse than destroying itself, our government in choosing destruction is destroying our children's future and the future of our nation. We are borrowing billions from Beijing (with whom we have a $220 billion trade deficit), to fight in Baghdad. How can we control our own future if our driving national purpose is to deprive others of their own future?
The longer term costs of the war reveal a darker nightmare. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School at Harvard University wrote "The Economic Costs of the Iraq War: An Appraisal Three Years After the Beginning of the Conflict" Their study, was released in January of 2006, estimates moderately that the total economic cost of the Iraq war will be $2.239 trillion.
Congress must act now to reclaim its rightful role, to repair the damage and to restore the nation. It must act now because everything about going into Iraq was wrong: Iraq had nothing to do with 911, with al-Queda's role in 911, with the anthrax attacks. Iraq had neither the intention nor the capability of attacking the United States, was not trying to get uranium from Niger and did not have weapons of mass destruction. The United States has no inherent right to initiate violent regime change anywhere, notwithstanding the Administration's national security strategy of unilateralism, preemption and first strike.
This dichotomized thinking of this US vs. THEM, whoever they are, leads to chaos and is always a precursor of war. It is exemplified by a major neocon operative with close ties to the White House, Michael Leeden, as quoted in Vanity Fair: "Leeden repeatedly urged war or destablization not just in Iraq but in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, even Saudi Arabia. 'One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please,' he wrote. 'Faster, please' became his mantra, repeated incessantly in his National Review columns."
Iraq is a turning point in American history. America must make a dramatic reversal of course: We must acknowledge that continued U.S.military presence in Iraq is counterproductive and destabilizing. We have a choice in front of us: either we sink deeper into the abyss of violence, with rising casualties and costs. Or we can reunite with the world community in the cause of peace. We must work through the United Nations and all the countries in the region to provide a new direction, a new diplomacy, a new hope.