On the week of the fifth anniversary year of the Iraq War and on the eve of the 4,000th official American military deaths in Iraq, former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, leading national expert on the war, and Greg Speeter, director of National Priorities Project (NPP), discussed the real costs of war for Colorado and the nation.Colorado taxpayers have forked over $11.4 billion to fund the Iraq War since 2002 — including a projected $2.1 billion for fiscal year 2009 alone — according to a new fact sheet produced by the NPP.
In addition to the financial costs, Colorado military personnel have suffered 54 fatalities and more than 3,000 wounded. Yet Coloradans face even more impacts from the Iraq War, said Hart and Speeter in a teleconference last week organized by ProgressNow.
“These are the times that try men’s souls — that is a profound sentence for what has happened since the Iraq War,” Hart said. “Our constitutional liberties have been reduced and there has been an abuse of civil rights.”
Hart charged that the Iraq invasion was based on false premises and that it has been used as an excuse for the abuse of powers of the Bush Administration. “You won’t find another presidential administration which has abused the Constitution more,” Hart said on the conference call.
Noting that the war is draining the national treasury when funds can’t be found for education or to preserve the environment, Hart encouraged Coloradans to become active in anti-war organizations. “The war is making us weaker instead of stronger,” he claimed.
How does the cost of the Iraq War affect other national projects? Speeter noted that nationally one-third of the nation’s public schools could be repaired; 77,000 bridges like the one that failed in Minnesota last year would be fixed, and nine million children could have health care for nine years.
“The war is costing Coloradans about $6.3 million a day,” Speeter estimated. “Those are funds that could have been spent in education, job training and housing.”
According to the NPP’s report on the 2009 budget:
Public Investment and the People of Colorado Would Suffer
The budget would cut back over 100 federal programs to address community needs. Here’s the impact of just four of those programs to Colorado:
$ 9.7 million in cuts for Community Development Block Grants, which benefit 40 communities;
$ 5.1 million in cuts for Low-income Home Energy Assistance;
$ 8.5 million in cuts for Social Services Block Grants; and
$ 5.5 million for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
The total amount of these cuts, $28.8 million, equals what U.S. taxpayers will spend on the Iraq war in 43 minutes.
Cite: National Priorities Project fact sheet
The Iraq War bill so far has cost Paonia citizens $600,000, compared with $306 million for Arapahoe County residents, according to NPP’s formula that calculates the potential share of war appropriations from federal tax revenues contributed from each locality based on local taxes, income and population data.
Hart said that for the U.S. to impose democracy on other nations such as Iraq, “we have to practice it first.” He noted that world opinion of the U.S. is at its lowest point. “We are considered hypocrites, waging war, torturing, wire tapping … We don’t take our own democratic process seriously. We’ve got to live up to our own principles first.”
To end the war, Speeter noted action has to come from the grassroots. “Only we can change the political climate,” he said, adding that more than 300 cities have passed resolutions to end the war.
Hart believes the U.S. can withdraw from Iraq honorably. “We need to tell the Iraqis that we have done our best — we’ve spent trillions of dollars in your country and now it’s time to govern yourselves.” He pointed out that Middle East civilizations have existed for thousands of years. “I think they are capable of determining their future without our help.”
One Coloradan listening to the Hart-Speeter conference, Jack Reed from NoName, said he was shocked to hear about how much the war has cost the state. “And I think Hart had a good point — what gives us the right to tell the Iraqis what type of government they should have?”
Note: Former Sen. Gary Hart will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover on Wednesday, March 26, to promote his newest book, “Under the Eagle’s Wing: A National Security Strategy of the United States for 2009.”