Monday, March 24, 2008

Iraq War Bulletin: As Casualties Mount, US Economy Declines Rapidly

US voices against the war

By Rob Winder in Washington DC

Protesters have continued their campaign against the war

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of Washington DC on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq to demand that the US withdraw its troops.

Al Jazeera spoke to them about why they were there, their messages for the Iraqi people, and their hopes for the forthcoming US election.

Kathleen Chandler, 54, truck driver from Buffalo, New York

I'm here because I'm against the war - it's an illegal and criminal war - people have said no to this war and are going to demand in this election, that the government, whether Democrat or Republican, end the war or find themselves in a lot of trouble with the American people.

My message for the Iraqi people is that we stand with their resistance, their right to sovereignty, their right to their own country and their right to oppose the US occupation of their country with every means that they have.

People are very angry with the Democratic party as they did not deliver when the were elected in 2006 [in the mid-term congressional polls].

They wanted the war ended, they wanted torture ended, they wanted Guantanamo closed and got nothing so there is a lot of contention.

We don't need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the war machine in the US when people need it for housing and healthcare in the US.

James Linn, 65, retired Vietnam veteran from Connecticut

I remember the arguments that were made in the Vietnam war - that if we didn't stop the communists in Vietnam then they would take over southeast Asia - well we didn't and they didn't.

We have an administration that at best, seriously misread the intelligence and at worst, lied to the American public.

It has taken the country into a war that has gone on for five full years and has no end in sight and has ignored the growing threat from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This war is much more about George Bush and his ideas about the world than it is about reality.

My message to the Iraqi people is that the best thing the US can do is withdraw and help them rebuild their country and that we will not continue destroying their country as we have done.

We have two Democratic candidates who are both opposed to the war - I prefer Obama but would still vote for and work for Hillary.

Henry Mills, 21, English student at Maryland University

We have to hold ourselves accountable for the government of the United States is doing.

Our responsibility is to speak out against the war and do what we can - so I'm here doing my part.

My message to the Iraqi people is that a large part of the American public is against the war and are open to the pain that the Iraqi people are suffering right now.

I read the news every day and there is still a suicide bombing every day and there are hundreds of people dying every week - this is not progress.

People are out of their minds if they think the war is over and the surge is working.

The US soldiers are just like another gang on the streets and we need to pull them out. They are not keeping the peace - they are causing violence.

Protests like this are largely symbolic but it does help to change attitudes and that is the first step.

Jack Wentland, 70, retired project manager from Hartford, Connecticut

The reason I am here today is that the war is sapping our resources not only economically but in terms of human resources.

If we don't speak up then no-one else will.

My message to people in Iraq is that I hope we can leave your country and somehow put it back the way it was - not with the domination of a dictator, but at least with its infrastructure restored.

As with the Vietnam war, only by protest will anything happen.

I can't understand why we are changing the subject to the economy as it's the same subject. The war is creating an economic mess and we need to pay attention to that.

I hope Obama will bring a thinking man's approach to this war rather than shooting from the hip as this [current] administration has done.

It's an important anniversary and it's important for people to come out and show they want this war to end.

Even if people don't think they are making a difference you have to stick up for your own convictions.

For every activist here there are 100 people who would like to come but can't participate but are against the war.

As we walk through the streets a lot of people that work here and live here come out and say 'keep doing what you're doing.'

It shows there is a resistance and that it's alive and it's big.

Iraq: In their own words

My message to the Iraqi people is that there are many people who are here in solidarity with you, that are praying for you and that don't want this to continue and that I hope that they know that.

I also hope the US troops know that there are people that want them to come home.

I'm supporting Barack Obama as I wanted to support someone who had not supported the war. I think it's very hard to get out of this war but it would have been easier not to go in.

Source: Al Jazeera

Iraq war batters US economy

By Adla Massoud

Oil prices have rocketed since the US invasion of Iraq

Five years since the the US began its invasion of Iraq, the world's largest economy is struggling to cope with the cost - estimated to be at least $500 billion and rising.

Two prominent US economists say the Iraq war and the US economy are now inextricably linked.

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize winning economist, and Linda Bilmes, authors of "The Three Trillion Dollar War," argue that the Iraq war will cost the US at least $3 trillion and possibly as much as $5 trillion.

Bilmes, a budget and public finance expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, told Al Jazeera that "both in a long-term sense and a short-term sense, the United States is worse off economically speaking because of the war.

"In a long-term sense, we have added already about $800 billion to our national debt as a result of the borrowing and the war," she said.

"In the short-term sense, we are spending $12 billion a month in Iraq alone and that clearly limits the amount of money that we have to provide things like economic stimuli to improve the economy."

Oil prices go up, not down

Washington's overall spending on domestic programmes outside of defence, such as education, highways and law enforcement, has grown.

But over the seven years of the Bush presidency, the funding for these programmes represents a declining share of the budget and economy.

Bilmes said her study looked at the total cost of the war, which includes the total amount of money that has been spent to date, the cost of taking care of veterans when they return, providing disability compensation to veterans, replenishing military equipment and the cost of borrowing.

And whatever the reasons for the US bombing of Baghdad, cheap oil has not been the result.

In fact, the price of oil has climbed from $25 a barrel to a staggering $110 over the past five years.

"The price of oil is an interesting issue. The oil price was $25 per barrel before we invaded Iraq and it's about $110 per barrel now and we only included in our model a very small percentage of that," Bilmes said.

Cost of stability

This $3 trillion debt over a period of time will be a small price to pay and one that the American people will pay gladly.

However, others say that $3 trillion is a price worth paying by the US.

Robert Shapiro, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration and fellow at the Brookings Institution says the figure would be a small price to pay for stability in the Middle East.

"The Bush administration in Iraq is not driven by economics," Shapiro said. "They are driven by judgments about the impact of this policy on the role of the United States in the world and that's as it should be.

"If this policy were sound and successful for the people of Iraq and for the stability of the region, this $3 trillion debt over a period of time will be a small price to pay and one that the American people will pay gladly."

Economic flu

Others also argue that the real cause of the US' economic woes is not the war in Iraq, but the subprime mortgage crisis and the housing market collapse.

Dean Baker, a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank, told Al Jazeera that tying the recession to the Iraq war was a mistake.

"It's like someone who doesn’t take care of themselves, doesn’t exercise, eats lots of junk food, so they are in bad shape and get pneumonia," Baker said.

"You know they are going to have a harder time dealing with pneumonia because they hadn't been in good shape before they got it.

"I would say that is the same thing with the war and the recession, that if we hadn't blown $180 billion a year on the war we would have been better prepared, we would have had a better educated workforce, better infrastructure, a better position to deal with the recession."

But Bilmes said the borrowed trillions have to come from somewhere.

"The money is borrowed in the capital markets and approximately 40 percent of the money that is borrowed this way is financed from overseas," she said.

"We had to borrow all the money that we've used to wage the war and of course we would have to pay interest on that money that we borrowed as well as repaying that money itself. So this really is a transfer of the cost of the war to the next generation."

Thus, any idea that war is good for the economy, Bilmes argued, is a myth.

Source: Al Jazeera

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