The fog of war

Why were the candidates silent on the cost of two campaigns?

The recent release of the second batch of Wikileaks logs, some 400,000 documents from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, underline how little Americans really know about the brutality and terrorism that have accompanied our military adventure there and in Afghanistan. Think Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, extreme rendition—and now, indifference to Iraqi troops’ use of torture.

Did we win in Iraq? Not really. If anything, we turned that nation in the direction of Iran, our mortal enemy in the region since 1979, giving Tehran a degree of influence in Iraq that is unprecedented and potentially destabilizing.

In the process, our military invasion and occupation led to the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis, the displacement of 2 million to 4 million more, and the terrorizing of a people in the name of freedom. Iraq remains vulnerable to civil war at any moment, which is why the United States continues to keep 50,000 troops there.

Afghanistan is no better. According to an Oct. 27 report in the Washington Post, high-level U.S. military and intelligence officials are saying that the intense military campaign designed to cripple the Taliban has failed to do more than inflict fleeting setbacks on the enemy. Meanwhile, the destruction goes on as American mercenaries—military contractors—spread mayhem across the country.

We’ve spent around $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s more than was spent on either TARP or the stimulus program, and yet there’s been little objection to the wars’ incredible cost.

War is a business, and a lot of rich and powerful people have a vested interest in keeping conflicts going. To them, winning isn’t the goal—forever fighting is. The United States spends more on “defense” than all the rest of the countries in the world combined, and has been engaged in one conflict or another almost continuously since the end of World War II. People and corporations have become very wealthy from all this bloodshed.

Why aren’t our politicians talking about these things? Why aren’t we asking them to defend such huge expenditures of life, health and treasure? How much longer can we afford to squander our wealth on deadly foreign misadventures?