By Gene Jones
Many politicians, including U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key), are pushing to solve our debt problem with radical proposals like a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution. Is their goal to distract citizens' attention from their previous votes that caused the deficits in the first place?
Many of the same politicians calling for a balanced budget amendment are the same ones who routinely voted to fund expensive wars of choice. These expenditures constitute a primary cause of our national debt.
Florida Veterans for Common Sense is proud to say we stood against the Iraq invasion from the beginning. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but to remove him by invading Iraq was a national security blunder of the highest order and not worth the cost in lives, destruction and money.
The cost to the Iraqis has been horrendous. As early as 2006, experts from Johns Hopkins University, Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded the number of people killed in the violence in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion was estimated to be at least 600,000. The Eisenhower Institute calculates 7.8 million people were forced to flee their homes. For perspective, this is about half the population of Florida.
The death and destruction were, and are, paid for with borrowed money. A Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, and Linda Bilmes concluded the cost to be $3 trillion in their 2008 book. In 2010 congressional testimony, they increased the estimate to $4 trillion.
The Congressional Budget Office conservatively estimated $1.9 trillion would be spent on Iraq. Recently, the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University issued a report concluding that the total for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be at least $3 trillion and perhaps as high as $4 trillion.
Of course, our troops have paid dearly. The fact sheets compiled by Veterans for Common Sense show that more than 6,000 soldiers have been killed and more than 100,000 wounded, injured or made ill in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 300,000 veterans are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or other mental health conditions.
The minds and bodies of our veterans that have been torn apart will never be made whole. The cost to care for our veterans is a priority obligation that America must meet. More than 654,000 veterans of the two wars have flooded into Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. According to Paul Sullivan, of Veterans for Common Sense, that's one new war casualty walking into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day -- about 10,000 new patients every month -- with no end in sight.
The cost for medical and disability benefits will rise for the indefinite future as the population of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan ages. To date, more than 2.2 million troops have served in those wars. Adding more cost pressure is the fact that over 200,000 veterans from the First Gulf War are now diagnosed with Gulf War illness, an unexpected malady arising from that war.
Those politicians who now complain about our debt while they voted to fund counterproductive war are, at best, disingenuous.
Every month that U.S. troops stay in Iraq and Afghanistan costs us more than $10 billion in direct costs.
Without the war spending, we could afford to do more for our citizens and economy. Because our politicians continue to fund unnecessary war, we are now debating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, education, infrastructure, etc. Worse, some politicians are working to slash health care and benefits for our veterans. On July 28, 2011, The New York Times reported that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) have called for trimming benefits for veterans and military retirees.
Politicians who voted for wars of choice and now complain about our debt should be held accountable at the next election.
Our organization stands with our troops and veterans. We will continue to fight against mistaken wars and cuts in veteran benefits.
This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/wars-choice-are-cause-national-debt-problem-1312383912. All rights are reserved.