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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Taxing times for the US

    As Americans everywhere send off their federal tax returns today, a moment of reflection is in order over how their hard-earned dollars will be spent.

    The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for seven years, and Iraq for five. The two-front Global War on Terror has had a high cost in human lives: over 4,000 dead U.S. troops, 29,000 wounded and perhaps millions of civilian casualties across Iraq and Afghanistan. It has had a high cost in international legitimacy and American “”soft power”” around the world. But its most outrageous cost may be in U.S. dollars.

    Long-term estimates of the cost of America’s ongoing wars range from $1 trillion to $3 trillion dollars -twenty times the $50 billion the Bush Administration originally estimated it would cost to go to war in Iraq.

    What could we do with $1 trillion? For starters, mail a $3,200 check to every person in the United States. We could fully fund the UN’s Millennium Development project, which would eradicate extreme poverty and give access to clean water and primary education to every human on Earth. Or, closer to home, we could cover state appropriations for Arizona’s public universities for 150 years.

    Those are all low-end estimates: The trillion-dollar figure is a remarkably conservative calculation of cost. In fact, if the president’s latest defense budget request is approved by Congress, the total price will already have reached a sickening $822 billion.

    Why are Americans still putting up with pointless wars fought at an immense price? It’s simple -the real costs of war have been obfuscated at every turn.

    Despite the fact that the War on Terror has stretched for seven years, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be funded by emergency appropriations bills proposed by the president and approved by a complicit Congress. Last year, the biggest emergency spending bill in history paid for America’s wars. But after years spent mired in the Middle East, neither conflict can truly be called an emergency. They may be important, but their costs have always been clear. Funding them through stopgap emergency measures is deceptive and wrong.

    Meanwhile, the regular defense budget continues to grow to record size. The basic defense budget is up 48 percent since 2001, to $493.3 billion.

    We have spent more on Iraq and Afghanistan than Korea, Vietnam and World War I. In fact, the twin wars cost more, in 2007 dollars, than any other conflict in U.S. history besides World War II. And if both conflicts continue to drag on, they could soon exceed the $3.2 trillion cost of that great global conflict.

    So make sure you mail in that tax return with pride today. Your government will spend it well.

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