Iraq was invaded and occupied on March 19, 2003. The war was sold to Americans as necessary to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil and to free the Iraqi people. This was based on deception and was not approved by the United Nations Security Council. The war not only was unnecessary and illegal, it also failed in its objectives.
Hundreds of al-Qaida’s leaders have been captured or killed since the onset of our “global war on terror,” mostly in the Afghan war, but it does continue to function, albeit only in a decentralized form. The consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence organizations is that terrorism is on the rise, partly driven by the Iraq war.
Neither the U.S. nor the world is safer.
Although we got rid of Sadaam Hussein, it cost at least 100,000 Iraqis their lives, while 4.6 million have been internally displaced and millions forced into exile. Iraq’s Museum of History was destroyed and its education system remains in shambles. The government is not able to provide reliable electricity or access to water or health care, and women are less safe than before.
Depleted uranium was used in the military assaults on Fallujah in 2004, and now the cancer rate in Fallujah exceeds that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped. Women in Fallujah are being told not to conceive due to high risk of birth defects. Is this what freedom looks like?
Nelson Mandela taught us that both the oppressed and the oppressors are harmed by a military occupation. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed, more than the number lost on 9-11, with more than 30,000 physically wounded and untold numbers emotionally wounded. A few have clearly lost even their human souls; witness the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the Nisoor Square massacre in Baghdad, and the recent group of soldiers in Afghanistan who killed Afghan citizens for sport and kept body parts for trophies. For the past two years, the number of military suicides has been greater than the number killed in combat. This is war.
President Barack Obama withdrew a significant number of troops from Iraq, but don’t be deceived; there are still about 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and a U.S. embassy the size of Vatican City. This has cost the U.S. about $65 billion this year. Taxpayers in Maine will have paid $2.2 billion for the Iraq war since 2003.
For the same amount of money we could have hired 39,429 elementary school teachers for a year. Instead of demonizing teachers and their “lofty pensions,” why not bring the troops home and redirect the money to basic necessities? Are soldiers more important than teachers?
The military budget must be included in budget discussions. We have more than 800 military bases throughout the world and more weapons of mass destruction than all other countries combined. There must be a way for us to make cuts without compromising security.
If we add the cost of the war in Afghanistan, U.S. taxpayers will have paid more than $1 trillion to date. Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist for the World Bank, estimated that both wars would cost the U.S. $3 trillion in the long term. These wars continue because corporations profit from making war and then don’t pay an equitable share of taxes.
The creation of crisis used as a pretense to steal resources is what Naomi Klein calls “shock doctrine.” In reality, there is enough money, it is a matter of budget priorities and equitable distribution of taxes. Let’s join together and call for an end to a system that allows unlimited funding for the military and corporations while cutting programs needed for social uplift.
There will be a rally and walk at 1 p.m. April 9 at Paul Bunyan Park in Bangor. It is in solidarity with rallies planned throughout the country. There has been enough destruction and waste. Please come and join us as we demand that our troops and tax dollars return home and the money gets redirected to basic human needs.
Katrina Bisheimer lives in Bucksport and is a psychiatric nurse. For more information on the rally, call 942-9343 or go to www.peacectr.org.