Young: Worst investment of the century
April 4, 2013
It never ceases to amaze – the breathtaking lack of proportionality some people have when they have it out for President Obama.
Hear the screams about what it costs to protect him on a golf outing or Malia and Sasha when going anywhere. Too much. You’ve got that right. But my reading of history – yours may differ – is that this president isn’t the first to have children, or to go mulligan-ing.
Worse than this, consider the jet-engine decibels used to decry the few bad bets, among many exceptional ones, this administration has made in a green initiative that Time magazine called “the most ambitious energy policy in history.”
Those dollars were used to invest in renewables of many stripes, as well as a smart grid, smart meters, and more energy-efficient federal buildings.
Every one of these initiatives does more toward “energy independence” and “energy security” than does drilling for oil or warring for it. Simply put and beyond debate: Energy savings are forever. Oil is not.
Back to the point about proportionality, however:
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If every penny of the $90 billion devoted to clean energy in the stimulus bill went into a rat hole of corruption and featherbedding, with no trace of return, it would be a speck on the scale of scandal compared to the worst fiscal mistake of the 21st century.
That would be the venture launched 10 years ago on outrageously false pretenses, and yet saluted by flag-waving tea party and Fox News types: the invasion of Iraq.
A Harvard study finds that our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan combined will cost Americans $4 trillion to $6 trillion over time, with the biggest costs to come at home with care for 1.56 million discharged veterans. “The big, big cost comes 30 or 40 years out,” Harvard’s Linda Bilmes told the Los Angeles Times.
Profligate spending? The president who brought these people home struck the biggest blow imaginable on behalf of budget austerity.
Note that in the 2008 election, Republican nominee John McCain, as with the neoconservatives in the White House, was set on extending this kind of duty as far into the future as calendars could be printed.
Enough about dollars and cents, however.
America lost 4,804 lives in Iraq, and to this point, 3,274 have died in Afghanistan. These, however, are people who enlisted to put their lives on the line. At the same time between 112,000 and 122,000 Iraqi civilians died in our deigning to “liberate” them (iraqbody
count.org). In Afghanistan, the civilian toll is more than 19,000 (costsofwar.org).
The United States needs to end its combat involvement in Afghanistan, pull the drones out of the sky and let people figure out what life is like without our war-making machines in their faces, stirring blood oaths.
From the start of our war-making, every Iraqi or Afghan we killed made it harder for us to pull out, as it meant two Iraqis or Afghans resolved to fight back.
At some point in the last decade a lot of Americans came to realize that we had put too much stock in the power of war. But that realization came most of a decade too late.
The so-called reconstruction of the countries we shattered, the “nation building” so derided by George W. Bush when he first solicited your vote for president, has been as much of a disaster as the war itself. It has been a boon only to private contractors who were in it for themselves, not for the victims.
War, though mankind’s worst invention and investment, is always good for the war business, and that’s been our business for too long.
It’s time, as Laura Nyro sang, to “study war no more.”
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.