mercredi 29 juin 2011

US cost of war at least $5.4 trillion and counting

According to the research project "Costs of War" led by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, in the ten years since US troops invaded Afghanistan, spending on the conflict totalled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion, although the final bill could reach $4.4 trillion depending on when it comes to an end. 

The study also notes that these numbers will rise by at least another trillion dollars when you take into account the interest payments still left to be made on loans contracted by the administration. 

In terms of casualties, it is estimated that up to 258,000 people have died as a direct result of warfare, including 125,000 civilians [in Iraq]. This number rises when you count those who have perished as a result of unsafe drinking water, lack of quality healthcare and mal/undernourishment. 365,000 more are left wounded and close to 8 million people have been displaced. But these are just estimates, because as Tommy Franks (U.S. commander in Iraq) said after the fall of Saddam in 2003, "We don't do body counts".

In a way we can say that the report calculates the "cost of 9/11": nineteen hijackers plus other Al Qaeda plotters spent half a million dollars to plan and carry out the attacks, causing anywhere between $50 and $100 billion in economic damage. 

For every victim of 9/11, 73 people lost their lives in wars of "retaliation". 

Confronted to such facts, members of the American Congress are raising questions as to what a "victory" scenario would look like: "I hope that when we look back, whenever this ends, something very good has come out of it", declared Republican representative Bob Corker of Tennessee to Reuters, not offering details on what such a scenario would look like.

For some, like ex-presidential hopeful Donald Trump, "victory" is easy to define: "In the old days when you had wars, you win, right? You win. To the victor belonged the spoils. So when we go to Iraq, we spend $1.4 trillion so far and thousands of lives are lost, right? ... And we're going to leave and 15 minutes after we leave, Iran is going to go into Iraq. You stay and protect the oil and you take the oil and you take whatever is necessary for them and you take what's necessary for us and we pay ourselves back $1.5 trillion or more. We take care of Britain, we take care of other countries that helped us and we don't be stupid ... So, in a nutshell, we go in, we take over the second largest oil fields and we stay". 

The Donald also holds little illusions over the war in Libya. As rebels battle for control of oil towns, Trump declared: "I'm only interested in Libya if we keep the oil. If we don't keep the oil, I'm not interested. ... I' m only interested in Libya if we get the oil". An Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Iran, and so on and so forth.

Simple enough. And if you think Obama's plans for the Middle-East differ from Trump's, you are in for more deceptions. On Wednesday (29/06/11), French armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard told Reuters that "France ... sent equipment allowing them [the rebels] to defend themselves, comprising light weapons and munitions". The UK's Foreign Office proposed its own interpretation of UN resolution 1973: "Our position is clear. There is an arms embargo in Libya. At the same time ... we think that the UN resolution allows, in certain limited circumstances, defensive weapons to be provided".

The legal basis for such interference in what resembles a civil war is nonexistent, and Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, unconsciously revealed the ridicule of NATO's position by invoking that these operations could be "morally justified since Gaddafi's change in tactics. He is hiding tanks in streets exactly to make impossible Nato air strikes to destroy tanks".

Forget civilians, the war is about securing control over strategic resources and territories. 

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