Sunday, March 26, 2006

War by the Numbers

I admit to being more than a little distressed to hear President Bush say that he intends to extend US involvement in Iraq through 2009, and at an increase of $9.8 billion dollars per month. He’s also given the ok to raise the national debt to a record $9 trillion dollars to help pay for the war. That’s means that every man, woman, and child now owes close to $28,000.00 apiece (I assume illegal aliens are exempt). So, being the inquisitive fellow that I am, I decide to do a little research about the statistics behind all this money. I went to About.com and typed in “Iraq War Statistics”. What follows is just a sample of what I came found.

Did you know that we’ve spent near $400 billion as of February 2006 on the war? You may recall that early cost estimates of the war were between $50 and $60 million. Around $9 billion dollars, along with $549.7 million dollars in spare parts are “unaccounted for” according to government auditors (come on, how do you lose over half a billion dollars in spare parts?) Halliburton (that’s VP Cheney’s former company) has overcharges to the government and other questionable costs in the range of $212 million dollars. The World Bank estimates Iraqi reconstruction to be $55.3 billion dollars. I imagine most of that, one way or another will come from US taxpayers. The average rate of unemployment in Iraq is 60%, and inflation is running at about 20%. Oil output has dropped by 20% since 2003 (the sale of Iraqi crude was supposed to offset US costs and pay for Iraqi reconstruction as you may recall), which mean the US will shoulder more of the costs and over a longer period of time.

Looking at the “human side” of the war, I learned that the number of outbreaks of hepatitis in 2004 was 200 compare with 170 in 2002 and 100 in 2000. The average number of hours a home in Baghdad has electricity is 5.2. For the rest of the country, it’s 10 hours. 37% of homes in Iraq are connected to sewer systems, while 78% have access to piped water. The number of children enrolled in a primary school is 4.3 million as of 2004 compared to 3.6 million in 2000. Iraqis without regular access to clean and safe water is 71%.

82% of Iraqis strongly oppose the presence of US and coalition troops. Less that 1% believes there has been any improvement in security. 72% have no confidence in coalition troops, while 67% feel less secure since Allied occupation. 70% of Iraqis see the coalition troops as “occupiers” not “liberators”. Insurgency attacks have become daily events, and their frequency is increasing. In February of 2004, there were 14. By the same time two years later, there were 75 attacks daily. On a much more somber note, over 2,290 US solders have been killed. 16,742 have been wounded and 204 non-US troops have died. There have been around 4,162 Iraqi military and police personnel killed. Approximately 53,470 Iraqi insurgents have been killed. Estimated civilian deaths since the war began range from 40,000 to just fewer than 82,000. The number of non-Iraqi contractors and civilian workers killed has been 365, along with some 280 kidnapped. Of those, 141 have been released. 6 have escaped or been rescued. Finally, 45 have been killed and status of the others is listed as “unknown”.

So, what are we to make of these fact and figures? President Bush committed us to a war, rightly or wrongly, based in part on what can only be described as a monumental failure of US and Western intelligence agencies. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no massive arms buildup. There were no chemical or biological weapons ready for deployment, though there appears to have been some evidence of ongoing research in those areas. There was no connection between Ben Laden and his network of murders and Saddam as alleged. Saddam had made economically and militarily impotent by the first Gulf War. He was effectively “boxed in” by the “no fly zone”, strong regional support of neighboring Arab nations, and an economic blockade imposed by the United Nations. Our covert support of the Kurds, and others, were increasingly destabilizing Saddam’s rule. It would have been only a matter of time when those within Iraq would have been strong and confident enough to remove Saddam from power. We acted without UN support (and some would say, outside of international law which we helped to establish, which I find odd since we pride ourselves on being a “nation of laws”). We blew off most of our most trusted allies. We lacked the regional cooperation and support we had in the first Gulf War. What was first billed as retaliation for 9/11 with our invasion of Afghanistan where those responsible actually were, evolved into “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. We succeed in removing an already weak petty dictator (butcher though he be) and fanned the flames of hatred against the West in general and the US in particular, not to mention inspiring Muslim fundamentalist “crazies” everywhere. We’ve out stayed our welcome according to the Iraqi people, if indeed we had one to begin with. No one faulted for wanting to respond to 9/11. The whole world was with us. But that support stopped with the invasion of Iraq (which by the way was also the first time in US history that we ever initiated a war). The result is that we’ll be committed to a fractured Iraq, and less stable region long after Bush has left office and well after his 2009 deadline has passed. The genie is, as they say, out of the bottle.

On the home front, gas prices seem to be holding between $2.44 and $2.50. LG$E heating costs seem to have leveled off too. With no natural disasters, oil wells being blown up, or other calamites, one wonders why oil and gas prices are remaining so high. Is $2.40+ the new reality? Have the oil and gas companies simply decided to give up hiding behind the farce of their artificially inflated prices that we don’t even get excuses any more? Heck, you’d think they’d have the decency to at least make up something, if for no other reason than to satisfy us cynics!

Finally, a little news about yours truly. I’ve been appointed by Governor Ernie Fletcher to the Bluegrass State Skills Corporation Board as the Labor Representative. The BSSC promotes and improves employment and training opportunities for Kentucky residents by creating partnerships with businesses and industries through training grants and investment credit in various skills training programs. As those who know me will attest, I believe education is the key to everything from personal growth and financial satisfaction to local and state economic growth and improvement in the overall quality of life. I am truly honored to have been chosen. Finally, I'd like to welcome the readers of LouisvilleSun.com. Hope you enjoy.

3 comments:

Moderate Man said...

I agree. The second war in Iraq was unjust, inept and a failure. Time to bring the troops home. Let Iran worry about an unstable neighbor. Who knows, maybe after a bloody civil war, the Kurds may get their own country. Or their might be 3 countries, one for Sheiites, one for Sunnie and one for the Kurds. But don't bet on it. This is about who controls the oil and has access to the Persian Gulf. This is about raw power. Let them settle it amoung themselves. Time for our country to create alternate fuels, develop research and development, provide energy saving tax credits, more recycling of existing materials, and develop mass transit as alternates to highways. By the way, does anyone know how much a trillion dollars is? If you stacked a million dollars on the table mostly with one thousand bills, if you could find them, it would be about six inches high. If you stacked a billion dollars on the same table it would be about as high as the Washington Momunent. If you stacked a trillion dollars on the same table it would be 95 miles high. Now to the hard cold fact. The United States of America now has a national debt of:

$8,363,492,993,215.17

Thats over 8 trillion dollars folks. Guess if you stacked it on a table, it would stand over 788 miles tall. Am I the only one outraged by this number?

Moderate Man

Jeremy & Katy said...

Gas Prices - Supply and Demand? Some needs to tell the truth!
Now that gas prices are approaching $3 dollars a gallon nation-wide, the politicians and media have decided it now the time to discuss this as critical issue to address right now. Many of the pundits on the talk shows and in op-eds have indicated that this is a supply and demand issue.

Here are just some of the comments:

Mark Alexander of Townhall - "So what really accounts for high fuel prices? The answer is elementary -- what economist Milton Friedman called "world market supply and demand for limited resources."

Joe Bell of Washington Times - Americans need to understand, and politicians should help, not hinder the process of understanding, that prices are impacted mostly by supply and demand and refining capacity. America imports roughly 60 percent of its oil, and we pay what exporters demand.

Charles Krauthammer of Washington Post - "Say It With Me: Supply and Demand"

Ray Suarez of PBS - "Most of the movement we see in the prices really has to do with the crude oil price. Oil companies don't set that price; the international marketplace sets it by all of the buyers and all of the sellers out there. And there's a real thin line right now between supply and demand, and that's what's really pushing a lot of the price increase we see now."

I would argue it is not as supply and demand problem, but simply a supply problem. Yes, everyone agrees there have been large increases in demand over the past 5 to 10 years due to the large economic increase from China and India, but the no one is discussing the real aspects of the supply side of this equation. Sure, they say we are finding fewer fields, the need for new exploration, alternatives energy, blah, blah. What these individuals are not talking about is the elephant in the room, OPEC. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), www.opec.org, is cartel of countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, etc.) who are responsible for the production of 37.9% of all oil production in the world and hold 69% of the know oil reserves. Here is the definition of "Cartel" - A group of producers who enter a collusive agreement to restrict output in order to raise prices and profits. It is clear that OPEC understands the oil is running out and they have restricted the amount of oil on the market. There is no difference between foreign and locally own oil, simply because all oil is traded on the same market. The only difference is Iran, which we do not allow to sell on our market. Since OPEC has decides not to increase production to meet demand, the natural effect is significant increases in the price per barrel, which then leads to 3 and possibly 4 dollars a gallon for the US. Supply and demand only works when no significant party involved has any control of either supply or demand. OPEC has significant control over the amount of supply produced and we are all paying the price for this control.

We all need to have an honest discussion about how the world oil market works, only then can we press for actions from our government that will lead to avoiding significant costs to the citizens of this country in the future. My suggestion is to get away from all oil (foreign and local) as soon as possible. If Brazil can do it, why can't we?

Another Opinion said...

Good points each. We must to find ways to get away from oil dependence not just for the sake of the consumer, but for the planet as well.