Throughout the long history of the Iraq War and occupation, the measure of success for many Americans has been the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the conflict. As long as the number of U.S. deaths was kept to a “reasonable” level, Americans would cheer the conflict, but if U.S. casualties were to begin rising precipitously, the demand for exiting Iraq would go up as well.
There has hardly been any consideration for the basic morality of the entire operation. Few Americans seem to care that their government has attacked a country that never attacked the United States and killed and maimed lots of people in the process. The fact that their government is the aggressor regime in the conflict doesn’t seem to bother them a bit.
By the same token, the number of Iraqi deaths has been irrelevant for many Americans, which would seem somewhat odd given that many people still believe that the U.S. government aggressed against Iraq in order to help out the Iraqi people. Iraqis who have resisted the invasion and occupation of their country have been considered “bad guys” or “terrorists” who deserved to be killed.
Moreover, from the very beginning there has never been an upper limit on the number of Iraqis killed that would cause many Americans to question the entire operation. The notion has been that any number of Iraqi deaths — a hundred or a million — is worth the effort to bring democracy to that country (even while supporting the unelected military dictator ruling Pakistan). In the minds of many Americans, the Iraqi people actually owe a debt of gratitude to the United States for the sacrifices that Americans have made in invading and occupying Iraq.
Time will tell whether Americans will pay a price for the Iraq intervention in terms of terrorist blowback, just as Americans on 9/11 paid a price for the U.S. government’s pre-9/11 interventions in the Middle East, (e.g., the Persian Gulf War, the brutal sanctions against Iraq, the no-fly zones over Iraq, the unconditional military and financial aid supplied to the Israeli government, and the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands).
Throughout the war and occupation, there have been those Americans who have lamented the fact that Americans generally haven’t been sharing in the sacrifice that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been making.
Well, they can’t say that anymore, at least not in terms of a financial sacrifice. Many Americans are learning the hard way — i.e., at the School of Hard Knocks — the fundamentals of Empire 101 — that empires and imperial adventures are not cheap and they’re not free.
Prior to the inception of the Iraq invasion, President Bush and other U.S. officials were doing their best to convince Americans that this was going to be a low-cost adventure. They suggested that other countries would be willing to share the expenses and, anyway, there would always be Iraqi oil that could be used to fund U.S. military operations.
Americans permitted themselves to be hoodwinked into believing those representations as effectively as they’ve permitted themselves to be hoodwinked into believing that their Social Security taxes have gone into some sort of trust fund.
Today they are learning that the entire Iraqi operation wasn’t free or cheap after all. While Americans have been able to block out of their minds the Iraqi deaths and perhaps even the U.S. deaths, reality is now mugging them in the face with the home-mortgage crisis, soaring prices, and the crashing dollar.
What’s amusing is how so many economic analysts are simply ignoring the Iraq War in their economic analyses. It’s all because of the “business cycle.” Or it’s “bad weather” (bringing to mind all those “bad weather” explanations that Soviet officials used to give their people for economic problems in the Soviet Empire). Or it’s “greedy speculators.” Why, it’s even OPEC again, which is why President Bush is pleading with OPEC to open the oil spigots. Or best of all, it’s just that the economy needs a “stimulus.”
Yes, in the minds of U.S. officials and their ardent pro-war supporters, the economic woes are just some sort of mysterious ailment, just like terrorism, that somehow or another strikes at some countries and not others.
But the fact is that the root of America’s economic woes lies in massive, out-of-control federal spending, a problem that has been enormously exacerbated since 2002 with spending on Iraq and the military-industrial complex. To get the money they needed to fund their Iraq adventure, U.S. officials simply went out and borrowed it, which succeeded in sucking billions of dollars out of the capital markets. Why does it surprise anyone that there is now a shortage of capital to fund home mortgages?
At some point, the government has to pay off those debts. Why does it surprise anyone that the Fed is now doing that by printing the money? Why does it surprise anyone that the value of the dollar has been crashing in international markets? Haven’t empires always funded their operations in this way? Isn’t that what the Soviet Empire did before it collapsed?
People have been focusing much of their attention on oil prices and the prices at the pump. But my hunch is that the price of oil hasn’t really been soaring that much, at least not in comparison with other commodities. For example, if one compares the price of oil in terms of the price of silver or gold from 2002 to present, there will be some variation but it won’t be a tremendous variation. It’s only when you compare the price of oil to dollars that we see a fourfold increase—from $25 a barrel to $100 a barrel.
What does this tell us? That it’s not that oil prices have soared but rather that the value of the dollar has plummeted. And why has it crashed? Because the supply of dollars has soared, thanks to the printing presses at the Federal Reserve. And why have the printing presses been working overtime? To pay for the ever-increasing debts of the federal government, especially the soaring expenses associated with “rebuilding Iraq.”
Wouldn’t it be ironic if after five years of believing that any number of Iraqi deaths is worth bringing democracy to Iraq, the American people were to conclude that bringing democracy to Iraq just hasn’t been worth the economic pain to their home values, their non-renewable mortgages, and their pocketbooks?