Commentary: We can't afford another war

Commentary: We can't afford another war

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A war with Iran would cost the United States and the world dearly. Experts say a full-blown conflict could easily kill hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. Other costs are less obvious, but nonetheless devastating.

You know those plans for a Green New Deal? Medicare for All? Free or affordable college? If we go to war with Iran, you can kiss it all goodbye.

According to a recent report by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the United States has sunk $6.4 trillion into wars and counterterrorism efforts since the attacks of 9/11. More than 800,000 people, including more than 7,000 members of the U.S. military, and 1,343 journalists and humanitarian aid workers have died.

Meanwhile, during the past 18 years, the quality of life on the American homefront has deteriorated.

Some 140 million Americans are living in poverty or on the brink, while more than a third of us report not getting health care because it cost too much. Our infrastructure, with $2 trillion in unfunded needs, gets a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Meanwhile, thanks to climate change, we can expect more horrific devastation from fires and hurricanes, which cost us $120 billion in federal emergency funds in 2017.

Yet instead of investing in clean energy jobs, fixing our crumbling bridges and water pipes, and creating a health care system that works, we're contemplating ... another war?

If and when the time comes, expect to hear a fairy tale about how we can strike Iran without getting pulled into an endless quagmire. War hawks will parade an impressive array of official types - White House bureaucrats, impressive-looking military leaders, and other talking heads - to assure us military action against Iran can be limited and the costs contained.

Don't believe it.

"Five days or five weeks or five months," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the American people about the Iraq war. "It certainly isn't going to last longer than that." That was in 2002.

White House officials at the time predicted the war with Iraq would cost, at most, $60 billion. The actual cost, according to the Watson Institute, is more than $880 billion.

Not one of the wars the United States has gotten into in the last two decades has been necessary. Yet we're now $6.4 trillion in the hole for them - and we're dangerously close to another war that could easily cost even more. Iran covers a larger area than either Iraq or Afghanistan and has a larger military, too.

A poll last fall found that three-quarters of Americans - Democrats and Republicans alike - don't want a war with Iran. Trump sometimes insists that's not the plan. Yet he bears responsibility for the strike that put us in this mess, and he continues to issue reckless provocations, like threatening to blow up Iranian cultural sites (a war crime, by the way.)

After 18 years of nonstop war, it's time to reinvest in the things that give us life, not destroy it. We can't possibly afford a war with Iran. Our only choice is to stop it before it starts.


Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.


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