The cost of war.

Our war in Afghanistan has now dragged on longer than the failed Soviet Union occupation.  And President Obama is faced with a decision to expand the war by adding up to 40 thousand new troops, engineering a withdrawal, or committing to something between those extremes. 

By all accounts, this was a war that could have ended several years ago if we hadn’t become preoccupied with Iraq.  But as the Iraq “liberation” dragged on, our real enemies in Afghanistan regrouped and gained in strength.  Now it seems that no option in Afghanistan is a “good” option – especially given our economic woes at home.

It was recently reported that the Afghan war has already cost nearly $230 billion.  It was also estimated that the war costs $500,000 (Pentagon estimate) to $1 million (Congressional estimate) to maintain one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for one year.  That cost includes transportation, equipment, support facilities and all incidentals.  If those figures are correct, adding 40 thousand more troops to the conflict will cost the U.S. an additional $20-40 billion over the next year.   And given that we still have combat troops stationed in Germany and Japan more than 60 years after the end of WW II, the cost will likely continue for many years to come. 

Not included in that estimate is the cost of VA to treat lasting injuries and psychological damage.  There are also the sums paid to veterans for disabilities.   And, of course, it’s impossible to place a price on the lives lost in action.   

Add to these costs the price of the war in Iraq which some estimate to total more than $2 trillion.

All of this is background to the debate over health care reform and economic stimulus.  The economic stimulus package that was signed by President Obama included $787 billion to create or save jobs by rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.  And the cost of health care reform bills being considered are estimated to  cost more than $800 billion over 10 years.  Of course, the conservatives are horrified by these numbers.

So they must be apoplectic over the cost of Bush’s wars?  Not exactly.   The conservatives can’t wait to send more troops to Afghanistan and spend more money (and more lives) on open-ended, no-bid contracts for the likes of Halliburton and Xe.  They even trotted out the dark one (former V.P., and former Halliburton CEO, Dick Cheney) to attack Obama for “dithering” over the decision to commit more troops. 

Conservative logic goes something like this:  It’s un-American and un-patriotic to spend our own money on our own citizens for jobs and health care.  But it’s absolutely necessary to spend trillions to kill a few knuckleheads on the other side of the globe. 

Does this make any sense?  I think you know the answer.