Hidden Costs of the Iraqi War Exposed
WILLIAM HUGHES / Guest
Black Commentator i.200, 5oct2006
to the country always.
- Mark Twain
Washington, D.C. If you need a boost to your morale, or better yet, something to restore your faith in our fast-fading Republic, then I suggest that you make room on your schedule to attend a hearing of the “Out of Iraq Caucus” (Caucus) of the House of Representatives. This Ad Hoc Committee, founded in June, 2005 and chaired by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA, 35th Congressional District), has been holding meetings led by a wonderful, gutsy lady, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA, 6th Congressional District). Both are part of the co-founding group. Woolsey has persistently insisted on the House floor, over 75 times, and in Committee meetings that: “It’s time to bring our troops home from Iraq!”
On September 26, 2006, I attended a session of the “Iraq Forum,” as the Caucus is sometime labeled, the third one that Rep. Woolsey has called recently to deal with the ongoing crisis of Iraq. The Caucus has 72 members and is adding new ones every day, including some Republicans. This 2 PM meeting, attended by about ten members, dealt specifically with the costs of the war. Because Rep. Woolsey belongs to the minority party in the U.S. Congress - the Democrats; the meeting was held in a basement office in the U.S. Capitol, Room HC-6. In a way, its purpose that day could have been entitled the “Hidden Costs of the Iraq War”, since most of the subjects broached that afternoon rarely see the light of day in the Establishment-controlled media.
For example: Take Ms. Chloe O’Gara. She is the Director of Education Programs, “Save The Children, USA.” O’Gara testified: “The ongoing conflict in Iraq is having a devastating impact on children and their families. Nearly half of Iraq’s 26 million people live in chronic poverty with the majority of adults unemployed and a large percentage of families dependent on public assistance for most of their food. Hospitals are short of supplies, schools are in poor shape and clean water is a perpetual problem, as sewage is often dumped, untreated, into the water sources. Since 1990, the mortality rate of children under five has more than doubled and the maternal morality rate has more than tripled--two key indicators that the needs of children and their families in Iraq are not being met...Many children in Iraq do not go to school today. It is estimated that 818,000 primary-aged children in Iraq do not attend school.” Ms. O’Gara added, “Along with food, water and shelter, education should be included as a front-line service in every humanitarian effort.” Because of the instability in Iraq, Ms. Chloe said that “Save the Children” is no longer operating in the beleaguered country.
The members of the Caucus include the feisty likes of Representatives John Conyers of Michigan; Barbara Lee, Sam Farr and Maxine Waters of California; Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas; along with Major Owens, Charley Rangle and Maurice Hinchey of New York; with Jim Moran of Virginia; and James McGovern of Massachusetts, just to name a few. The lawmakers, all Democrats, take their oath of office seriously. These are the people who helped to publicize the Downing Street Memos that showed the administration had lied the country into the Iraq quagmire. (3) They have stood up, defiantly, to the Bush-Cheney Gang on the issue of the illegal Iraq War. If only there were more like them in the U.S. Congress.
Ms. Anita Dancs, PhD, was another witness before the Committee. In addition to testifying, she also submitted a written statement for the Caucus’ consideration. Dancs, the Research Director of the National Priorities Project, said: “Every dollar we spend on the Iraq War is a dollar we cannot spend on addressing other priorities, whether abroad or at home. Economists call this an ‘opportunity cost.’ Congress has so far spent nearly $320 billion on the war. But all of these dollars are dollars that could have been directed towards meeting other needs and investing in our future. In fact, that amount of money ‘could’ have done all of the following:
- Provided health care coverage for all uninsured children for as long as the Iraq War has lasted; and
- Provided four-year scholarships (tuition and fees) to a public university for all of this year’s graduating seniors; and
- Built half a million affordable housing units; and
- Fully funded the amount the Coast Guard estimated is needed for port security; and
- Tripled the energy conservation budget in the U.S. Department of Energy; and
- Still enough would be left over to reduce this year’s budget deficit by one-third.” Ms. Dancs concluded: “The American public is increasingly recognizing that the costs have been too high [for this war] and the benefits unclear. The public is ready to hear the truth and debate the options, if only more elected officials would show leadership in this area.” The National Priorities’ web site is one of the most popular, and authoritative source on the Net, with respect to the costs of the Neocon-inspired Iraq War.
Sgt. Patrick Campbell, an Iraq War veteran and a combat medic, was next up. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge and the Meritorious Service Medal for his tour of duty in Iraq. He’s presently on the staff of the “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America,” (IAVA), and in the D.C. National Guard. Sgt. Campbell said: “The soldiers in my unit fought honorably and with great distinction. In my mind, they earned...let me repeat...earned...the right to be taken care of by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Sadly, if a soldier has returned from Iraq and needs help, his/her bureaucratic battle has just begun. Soldiers can expect to wait years to have their claims to be adjudicated. This is so simply unacceptable. Now soldiers are hearing that the VA has been severely under funded because they failed to accurately account for the increase in the numbers of veterans. Reality check...the VA hasn’t seen anything yet. Veterans haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on demands for the VA. I speak from personal experience when I say that most National Guard troops who served overseas and are still in the military don’t even know they need to sign up for the VA within two years of their return and not when they end their service.”
Sgt. Campbell related how many of the troops in Iraq have been subjected to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) as a result of being hit by and/or being close to attacks coming from a mortar, rocket or the ubiquitous improvised explosive devices (IED). He said: “TBI has been called the hallmark injury of the Iraq/Afghanistan war. Unfortunately, the military’s red tape and the under funding of the VA has left hospitals under-equipped to cope with patients with TBI. Currently, there is no system-wide push to develop an adequate screening for TBI or a system of tracking soldiers afflicted with TBI and the treatment they are receiving...We must start screening soldiers for TBI...and also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)]. We must develop a system of tracking soldiers who are afflicted with TBI...and PTSD. We must ensure that the care these soldiers receive is worthy of their service to this country.”
When he first got to Iraq, Sgt. Campbell told the Committee, the troops with whom he was serving, many from Western Louisiana, were convinced that they would “find WMD.” They also believed that George Bush was the “greatest man that ever walked the world...I can guarantee you that by the end of the time that we were there, they had no idea what they thought about that man.” Earlier in the proceedings, the Committee had heard from Lt. General, USA, Ret., William E. Odom. He testified that the “longer the U.S. stays in Iraq, the worse it will get.” He called Iraq “the greatest strategic mistake in American history.” Sgt. Campbell echoing Odom’s comments, suggested that an antiwar theme which argues that “America will be stronger,” by taking “a different course,” [by getting out], would “play better with the veterans” of that conflict, since they were sold a bill of goods that they were being sent to Iraq because it was necessary to “strengthen the country.”
Finally, my hat goes off to the “Out of Iraq Caucus,” its hardworking chairperson, Rep. Maxine Waters, meeting chair, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, and to all its dedicated members. Their efforts, as reflected in the riveting testimony from all the excellent witnesses who appeared before the Committee, on the “hidden costs of the Iraq War”, on Sept. 26, 2006, are a credit to our Republic.
William Hughes is the author of “Saying ‘No’ to the War Party” (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. © William Hughes 2006.
- A video of some of Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s remarks
- A video of Ms. Chloe O’Gara’s testimony
- A video of Ms. Anita Dancs’ testimony
- A video of some of Sgt. Patrick Campbell’s testimony