The Cost of the War in Iraq

The cost of war during a time of war is always a point of high contention. In America, we seemed to have entered into and nationally accepted a perpetual state of war. The so-called ‘war on terror’ has no foreseeable end, as does not any war declared on a thing or a concept. Terrorism, being a military tactic, cannot be conquered. The terrorist groups are not making threats directly to the American people, but rather we are relying on what the government says is the truth. Since we have already accepted this state of perpetual war, we will be kept in fear until the government says it’s OK to come outside again. This functions much in the same way that the cold war did, except the collapse of the USSR changed the social dynamic unexpectedly.

That being said, there is no exact quantifier or tag that you could put on the human cost of the Iraq war. Whether the war is a just one or not, it is probably still important to at least attempt to examine what the nation has spent.

The Human Cost

The Department of Defense puts out a daily release of American casualties in the Iraq war in the form of a pdf file (which can be downloaded by clicking the link).

The Iraq Body Count organization has a website which estimates the amount of Iraqi deaths as of the writing of this post to be at minimum 67,325. That’s a toll of reported deaths alone.


The Iraq Coalition Casualties Count website has a detailed list of all the civilian casualties that have been reported by coalition forces (remember when we used to refer to them as ‘coalition forces’?). The same group has a weekly column called Casualty Trends which puts the entire American death toll at 3,607 dead and 26,695 wounded.

Nobody, however, agrees on the actual Iraqi body count.

In 2000, a team led by Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health used random sampling to calculate the death toll in the Congolese civil war at 1.7 million. This figure prompted immediate action by the U.N. Security Council. No one questioned the methodology.

In September 2004, Roberts led a similar team that researched death rates in Iraq before and after the 2003 invasion. Making “conservative assumptions,” the team concluded that “about 100,000 excess deaths” among men, women and children had occurred in 18 months. Most were directly attributable to the breakdown of the healthcare system prompted by the invasion. Violent deaths had soared twentyfold.

Unlike the respectful applause granted the Congolese study, this one, published in the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet, generated a firestorm of criticism. The outrage may have been prompted by the unsettling possibility that Iraq’s liberation had already caused a third as many Iraqi deaths as the reported 300,000 murdered by Saddam Hussein in his decades of tyranny. So shocking was this concept that liberals joined hawks in denouncing the study.

Some of the attacks were selfevidently absurd. British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman, for example, questioned the survey because it “appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count,” as if Blair had never made a political decision based on a poll.

Some questioned whether the sample was distorted by unrepresentative hot spots such as Fallouja. In fact, the amazingly dedicated and courageous Iraqi doctors who actually gathered the data visited 33 “clusters” selected on an entirely random basis. In each of these clusters, the teams conducted interviews in 30 households, again selected on a rigorously random basis. As it happened, Fallouja was one of the clusters that came up in this process. Erring on the side of caution, they eliminated Fallouja from their sample. Strictly speaking, the team should have included the data from that embattled city in their final result — random is random after all — which would have given an overall post-invasion excess death figure of no less than 268,000.

From Refiguring the Iraq Body Count, a 2005 essay by Andrew Cockburn

In any case, it’s harder to find real facts about the human cost than anything else. And once you get past the human cost there is the emotional cost: tens upon thousands of scarred soldiers; emotional ties forever strained between America, Iraq and the rest of the middle east; a broken country in shambles.


The Economics

This is the part that nobody wants to talk about, the pure economic side of the war. Of course there is division over this issue as well, so it’s probably best to look at several figures. It is also important to remember, as one New York Times article points out, that before the war the Pentagon had estimated the cost to be approximately $50 billion.

Democratic staff members in Congress largely agreed. Lawrence Lindsey, a White House economic adviser, was a bit more realistic, predicting that the cost could go as high as $200 billion, but President Bush fired him in part for saying so.

The article also speculates on what else could have been accomplished with $1.2 trillion, the eventual price tag that the author (through research) has placed on the war.

For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.

Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.

The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place — better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation — could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban’s recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.

What 1.2 Trillion Can Buy by David Leonhardt

I encourage all readers to check that out.

zFacts has a counter on the cost of the war, as does the National Priorities Project which both put the estimated cost at more than $400 billion and climbing steadily.  I’m not going to go as far as to say that I can suggest what should have been done with the money instead, but I will give you a realistic evaluation.

In a country of less than 30 million people, $400 billion is equal to $13,793 per man woman and child that we have spent on waging war against the country.  It might be a bit facetious considering those numbers alone for anyone to suggest that there existed no better and more diplomatic way to coax Saddam out of power.


Black Sunday

Why they gotta call everything that’s bad ‘black’? Ninjas find that quite disrespectful.

case in point
Anyway, I didn’t want you all to think that the politrickal brain of mnp is sleeping while the rest of the site chugs along. So, in that spirit, today I’m providing you with some linkage to information about this so-called Black Sunday for internet radio.

Basically, the Record Industry, back in the proverbial day, created this group called SoundExchange, the purpose of which is a non-for-profit organization for the collection of artist royalties. So SoundExchange has been lobbying the Copyright Royalty Board of the Library of Congress to increase the amount of royalties paid to artists and record companies. The CRB finally agreed in March to do just that, tripling the amount of royalties needing to be paid for internet radio. Needless to say, mad little indy internet radio stations shut down in anticipation of the rise in fees.  This past Sunday was supposed to be the day.

The four largest Internet-radio providers — Pandora, Yahoo, Rhapsody and Live365 — have tens of millions of channels among them. Pandora can afford to pay fees on Sunday but will continue to lobby Congress for changes, said founder Tim Westergren.

“This is just about the artists getting paid fairly,” said Richard Ades, spokesman for SoundExchange. “Artists and labels just want a fair share of the pie.”

Washington Post

Well, the lobbying continues, but, it’s definitely scary business for all the people out there doing some amount of internet broadcasting. The record companies keep digging themselves a deeper grave because of their inability to match the pace of technology with innovation, effectively using the internet to generate their much sought after income. I agree that artists should be paid fairly, and, I would even go as far to say that intellectual property is extremely important for the maintenance of our capitalist system. Still, it’s total BS that there’s now ay to make a system where people have a large amount of public access to music, and everybody still makes their money.

In my humble opinion, this is another instance of them not thinking hard enough. It’s preposterous to even suggest that any legislation can stop people from broadcasting illegally; it simply belies a true understanding of both technology and human nature. But the arguments from the record industry are always the same: insulting to the intelligence, as if music hasn’t been around since humans have; as if they have facilitated all music ever.

UPDATE: It appears that Sunday won’t be so black after all for Internet radio stations. A new bill was introduced in Congress last night that would give parties 60 days to continue negotiations. According to an update in the Radio and Internet Newsletter, SoundExchange Executive Director John Simson says there’s no reason for small Webcasters to stop streaming on Sunday.

Diaz @ Washington Post

I dont see any black people

Thanks to Diaz’s blog we know that negotiations are ongoing and the destruction of the earth is not yet at hand. We’ll try to keep you updated on this issue, even as we prepare our REACH special report and the Drug Extravaganza.

Bill Moyers & Impeachment

Since Clinton got impeached for doing what any respectable president would do, some people are now arguing that Bush and Cheney should be impeached for numerous reasons (the Iraq war, the Plame incident and subsequent pardon, secret CIA prisons, bad airline food). One of the people exploring this idea is that ninja Bill Moyers. We currently classify Bill as ‘still supporting the forces of good.’


Still, some people argue that impeaching the president undermines the process and validates the Republican impeachment of Clinton. But, as a former administrator of this site pointed out, Bush may be the best example of exactly how and when a president should be impeached. Furthermore, Bill Moyers argues that this is specifically the situation for which the founding ninjas (using term loosely) intended impeachment to be used.

You can check out his video journal here; it’s got the full video. He also has a cool little history of impeachment here.
[Ed: You really have to check out the site about the Scooter Libby pardon]

Ecstasy Rising


Rapper I Self Devine said in the song Illegal Busyness “there’s no war on drugs/a war on us/a war to win love.”

No statement is made more apparent than by the U.S. government’s treatment of drug policy for the last few decades. August marks the beginning of the politricks.mnp Drugs Special Report.

For now, take a look at this Peter Jennings documentary about ecstasy. You might be surprised what you learn.

The problems with drugs and the war on drugs are twofold, as illustrated by this report. On the one hand, the government is creating a trust deficit by overstating the harmful qualities of certain substances. On the other hand, by challenging the government’s claims there is also a false sense of security amongst young people that is manifested in pop culture acceptance and celebration of the drug.

Before August, you’ll get a REACH Special Report: One Month and Counting, as well as a little info on REAL ID. Stay tuned!

Osama Bin Laden made Saifullah


Saifullah, which literally means “sword of Islam,” is the honor that is being bestowed upon the notorious figurehead of the Al Qaeda organization.  This new development is a direct reaction to the recent British Knighthood of Salman Rushdie.

Some Muslims view the honor of knighthood for the author to be offensive, given the controversial book that Rushdie wrote, the Satanic Verses.  I’m not really sure what to say about this but… here’s a few links.

Thanks to Jen!

Bush Paves the Way for Martial Law

In October 2006, Bush signed into law the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. Quietly slipped into the law at the last minute, at the request of the Bush administration, were sections changing important legal principles, dating back 200 years, which limit the U.S. government’s ability to use the military to intervene in domestic affairs. These changes would allow Bush, whenever he thinks it necessary, to institute martial law–under which the military takes direct control over civilian administration.

Sec. 1042 of the Act, “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,” effectively overturns what is known as posse comitatus. The Posse Comitatus Act is a law, passed in 1878, that prohibits the use of the regular military within the U.S. borders. The original passage of the Posse Comitatus Act was a very reactionary move that sealed the betrayal of Black people after the Civil War and brought the period of Reconstruction to an end. It decreed that federal troops could no longer be used inside the former Confederate states to enforce the new legal rights of Black people. Black people were turned over to the armed police and Klansmen serving the southern plantation owners, and the long period of Jim Crow began.

During the 20th century, posse comitatus objectively started to play a new role within the bourgeois democratic framework: as a legal barrier to the direct influence of the powerful military establishment and the armed forces over domestic U.S. society. It served to some degree as an obstacle against military coups and presidents seizing military control over the country. (However, National Guard troops have been legally available to the ruling class for use inside the U.S., and there have been other loopholes to the prohibition of the use of armed forces domestically, as in the mobilization of Marine troops during the 1992 L.A. Rebellion.)

So the changes to posse comitatus signed into law by Bush are extremely significant and ominous. Bush has modified the main exemptions to posse comitatus that up to now have been primarily defined by the Insurrection Act of 1807. Previously the president could call out the army in the United States only in cases of insurrection or conditions where “rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.” Under the new law the president can use the military in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or “other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”

The new law requires the President to notify Congress “as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of the authority.” However Bush, as he has often done during his presidency, modified this requirement in his signing statement, which declared, “The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive.” In other words, Bush claims that he does not even need to inform Congress that martial law has been declared!


E-Vote Memo Is a ‘Smoking Gun’

A memo sent last year by a voting machine maker to election officials in Florida has reignited controversy over the reliability and accuracy of the company’s machines. Voting activists are now renewing calls to examine source code used in the Election Systems & Software machines during a close election last November.

Activists say the memo, which was uncovered last September but only came to prominence last week, proves that ES&S and Florida election officials knew about problems with the company’s iVotronic touch-screen machines before the election, yet withheld the information from a court to prevent activists from examining the voting software.

The software, activists say, is crucial to a dispute over the 13th Congressional District race in November, in which Democrat Christine Jennings lost by fewer than 400 votes to Republican Vern Buchanan. Jennings and groups of voters filed separate lawsuits contending that the results were questionable because more than 18,000 ballots cast in Sarasota County mysteriously recorded no vote in the congressional race.

Activists say the ES&S memo points to a possible reason for the high “undervote” rate.

“This memo is the smoking gun that says, ‘Yes, Houston, we have a problem,’” says Reginald Mitchell, lawyer for People for the American Way


More World Bank & Roving Bugs


So it has come to my attention that since the discussion of roving bugs first surfaced on the internet, many people have blogged about it.

So many people have mentioned this issue in fact that it has generated a sort of hysteria about the issue.  The generation of such hysteria has obviously spurred a coalition of naysayers.  I just wanted to reaffirm to people that the technology is obviously possible.  Some articles go as far as to claim that the roving bug could be activated even when the phone was switched off.  That might be a little hyperbolic.

Anyway, this guy disagrees.  Here is a little more about that roving bug bust.

The article from which this graph originates is very interesting. So is this.

The other thing is that I was having a conversation with my dad the other day and he made a good anecdotal point about why free market capitalism pisses people off who live within poor market economies, I mean, besides the obvious reasons.  He pointed out what happened when a company from the UAE tried to buy American ports. It wasn’t very pretty.

I was saying in the last post that many countries blame their financial problems on the sharky nature of the world bank which can have the (purposeful or accidental) effect of destabilizing an economy, and/or supporting people financially who really don’t need to be in charge.  Argentina is one of the countries that really hates the organization.  Read and educate yourself.


The image of the Argentinian World Bank protest originates from this article.