March 14, 2004
The Toronto Sun

Bush's Iraq War is a Financial Disaster

The U.S. won an inevitable military triumph, but political victory remains elusive

by Eric Margolis

WASHINGTON -- The famous words of King Pyrrhus of Epirus after the bloody battle of Heraclea in 280 BC are as appropriate for America's conquest of Iraq: "One more such victory and we are ruined."

The March, 2003 invasion of Iraq pitted the world's greatest military power against the largely inoperative army of a small, dilapidated nation of only 17 million (deducting rebellious Kurds), crushed by 12 years of sanctions and bombing. Thanks to total air superiority, invading U.S. forces achieved a brilliant feat of logistics, racing from Kuwait to Northern Iraq in under three weeks. The 15% of Iraq's army that stood and fought was pulverized by massive, co-ordinated U.S. air strikes and artillery barrages. Urban resistance failed to materialize.

The rout of Iraq's forces recalled another colonial war, the Dervish Campaign of 1898. Gen. Kitchener led the imperial British Army far up the Nile into Sudan where it met and massacred a primitive Islamic host at Omdurman. Britain's quick-fire guns and artillery mowed down Dervish cavalry and sword-waving "fuzzy-wuzzies" as murderously as U.S. precision munitions vapourized Iraqi units.

U.S. air and ground forces in Iraq displayed superb technical, electronic, logistic and combat prowess confirming they are two full military generations ahead of nearly all other nations.

But as the great modern military thinker, Maj.-Gen J.F.C. Fuller, observed 40 years ago, the proper objective of war is not military victory but a politically advantageous peace. While the U.S. won an inevitable military victory against a nearly helpless Iraq, political victory so far remains elusive.

Primary objectives

In my view, two primary objectives drove the U.S. invasion of Iraq: oil and its support for Israel.

White House claims about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism were propaganda smoke screens. . . .

The CIA estimates China's and India's surging, oil-hungry economies will cause world oil shortages by 2030 - or sooner. . . .

By dominating these oil sources, the U.S. controls the economies of its main commercial and potential military rivals. Control of the Muslim world's oil is the principal pillar of America's world power.

The Pentagon plans three permanent major military bases in Iraq from which powerful garrisons of U.S. air and ground forces, backed by mercenary native troops, will police not just Iraq but the entire Mideast and guard the new "imperial lifeline" of pipelines exporting oil from Central Asia and the Arab world.

Other U.S. bases in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, linked to bases in Bulgaria and Romania, will guard the new imperial route. . . .


The neo-cons achieved their objective: Iraq, once the Arab world's most developed, industrialized nation, a bitter foe of Israel, was destroyed, and will likely end up split into three weak mini-states.

Israel is a primary beneficiary of the Iraq war: a potential nuclear rival was eliminated by the U.S. . . .

Occupying Iraq costs $9 billion monthly.

Pre-war neo-con plans to finance the occupation by plundering Iraq's oil have been frustrated by sabotage. Congress estimates the overall cost of "pacifying" and "rebuilding" Iraq for fiscal 2003 and 2004 at a staggering $200 billion. . . .

Iraq lies in ruins. "Rebuilding Iraq" means paying for all the damage caused by massive U.S. bombing and years of sanctions.

Puppet regime

In spite of rosy claims from the White House about handing sovereignty to Iraqis, American troops will garrison Iraq for years to guard the oil fields and maintain a "democratic" puppet regime in power in Baghdad that obeys Washington's orders. . . .

The brazen arrogance and profound ignorance shown by the Bush administration in its crusade against Iraq has turned the world against the United States. Occupied Iraq is acting as a terrorism generator. For the next generation of young Muslims, Iraq is becoming what Afghanistan was in the 1980s, a rallying point to fight foreign occupation, battle imperialism and defend the tattered honour of the Muslim world. Bush and his men have created millions of new enemies. . . .

However, because of Iraq, much of the world now regards America itself as a menacing, unstable threat.


Andrew Beatty, "Poll: Israel and US Biggest Threats to World Peace," EUobserver, October 30, 2003

Eric Margolis, "Iraq War: Liars or Fools?,", February 2, 2004

Gabriel Kolko, "The U.S. Must be Isolated and Constrained," CounterPunch, March 12, 2004

Robert Fisk, "Focus: One year on - war without end," Independent, March 14, 2004

Dana Milbank and Robin Wright, "Off the Mark on Cost of War, Reception by Iraqis," Washington Post, March 19, 2004

Ron Jacobs, "What Dubya Really Said," CounterPunch, April 14, 2004

[The real cost to the US of the Iraq war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion (1.1 trillion), up to 10 times more than previously thought, according to a report written by a Nobel prize-winning economist and a Harvard budget expert. . . .

Mr Stiglitz told the Guardian that despite the staggering costs laid out in their paper the economists had erred on the side of caution.--Jamie Wilson, "Iraq war could cost US over $2 trillion, says Nobel prize-winning economist," Guardian, January 7, 2006]

[if you use government assumptions about the size of troop strength over the coming years, the war will cost us $1-trillion in direct budgetary outlays. Then, they say, add another trillion dollars for the war's adverse impact on our economy, such things as the loss of economic services by the men and women disabled during the war, the increase in the price of oil and other macroeconomic factors..--Robyn E. Blumner, "Cost of Bush's war? Just keep adding zeroes," St. Petersburg Times, October 1, 2006]

[The Pentagon is trying to silence economists who predict that several decades of care for the wounded will amount to an unbelievable $2.5 trillion. . . .

To draw attention to her academic findings, Bilmes wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times of 5 January 2007 in which she quoted the figure of "more than 50,000 wounded Iraq war soldiers". The reaction from the Pentagon was fury. An assistant secretary there named Dr William Winkenwerder phoned her personally to complain. Bilmes recalls: "He said, 'Where did you get those numbers from?'" She explained to Winkenwerder that the 50,000 figure came from the VA, and faxed him copies of official US government documents that proved her point. Winkenwerder backed down. . . .

In this war, 21st-century medical care and better armour have inflated the numbers of the wounded-but-living, leading Bilmes to an astounding conclusion: for every soldier dying in Iraq or Afghanistan today, 16 are being wounded. The Pentagon insists the figure is nearer nine - but, either way, the economic implications for the future are phenomenal.

So far, more than 200,000 veterans from the current Iraq or Afghanistan wars have been treated at VA centres. Twenty per cent of those brought home are suffering from serious brain or spinal injuries, or the severing of more than one limb, and a further 20 per cent from amputations, blindness or deafness, severe burns, or other dire conditions. "Every person injured on active duty is going to be a long-term cost of the war," says Bilmes. If we compare the financial ramifications of the first Gulf war to the present one, the implications become even more stark. Despite its brevity, even the 1991 Gulf war exacted a heavy toll: 48.4 per cent of veterans sought medical care, and 44 per cent filed disability claims. Eighty-eight per cent of these claims were granted, meaning that 611,729 veterans from the first Gulf war are now receiving disability benefits; a large proportion are suffering from psychiatric illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.--Andrew Stephen, "Iraq: the hidden cost of the war," New Statesman, March 12, 2007]

Marilynn Marchione, "Almost half of new vets seek disability," Associated Press, May 27, 2012

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