Report on Cost of War Delivered to Rep. Virgil Goode

By David Swanson

I made the following remarks in front of Rep. Virgil Goode’s office in Charlottesville, Va., today. This is a substantially modified version of a script provided by Moveon.org.

Thank you all so much for coming. It’s so great to see you all out here. It’s the middle of August. Lots of folks are on vacation. And yet we’re all here. Our group today may be relatively small, but it’s mighty. We’re representing MoveOn members and other citizens and activist groups from all over this district and across the country. There are over 150 other events like this taking place around the nation.

We’re here to release a brand-new report on the true cost of the Iraq War – and to show how this occupation of a foreign nation is robbing our community of much-needed resources. We’re calling on our members of Congress, Senators Warner and Webb and Representative Virgil Goode, to end the occupation of Iraq when they return to Washington on September 4th.

As you’ll see in the report, this war has a direct financial impact on the taxpayers of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Our country is spending over $275 million every day on the Iraq war — which is an average of $4,100 for every American household.

Here in Virginia’s Fifth District, taxpayers are paying $814 million to continue the war in Iraq. Statewide, Virginian’s are paying $12.4 billion.

And I want to stress that these numbers, which come from the National Priorities Project at costofwar.com are based only on the money that Congress has already spent invading and occupying Iraq, a total of $456 billion. The Congressional Budget Office expects costs to end up over a trillion.

And those calculations do not include a number of real costs we are already facing, including the costs of providing health care for veterans and rebuilding the military, the effects on the economy of removing workers to make them soldiers, the increased price of oil, and the failure to spend the war money on domestic projects (such as infrastructure). Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes estimate a total cost of about four times the direct cost of the war.

The state of Virginia has been so pinched for funds that the legislature has famously introduced $1,000 speeding tickets.

But just working with the figure of $814 million, what Virginia’s Fifth District has shelled out in taxes, the impact has been horrible. For that amount of money, we could have enrolled an additional 112,906 children in Head Start or hired 12,305 new elementary school teachers or created 5,317 affordable housing units. Again, that’s just in the Fifth District, the district represented – if that’s the word for it – by Congressman Virgil Goode. When we’re done here, we’re going to deliver the report to Congressman Goode’s office.

What is not contained in the report are the stories of families without affordable housing, of children without Head Start, of students unable to afford college. But those stories are all around us.

Also missing are the stories of an estimated 1,007,400 Iraqis killed and many more wounded, and their families, and the 2 million Iraqis displaced within Iraq, and the 2 million more driven out of their country living as refugees. Also missing are the nearly 4,000 US servicemen and women killed, 54,000 wounded or ill. 180,000 US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan had filed disability claims by the end of last year. Contractors and mercenaries have suffered another 933 deaths in Iraq.

Missing also are the stories of our grandchildren whom we are saddling with the financial debt of this occupation. Not only are we depriving people of housing and education. Not only are we endangering Americans – Our own intelligence agencies tell us the occupation is increasing, not fighting, terrorism. But we are also placing the burden of paying financially for our crimes on future generations.

Thomas Jefferson only wanted one amendment added to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights, and it never was: an amendment barring the federal government from borrowing money.

Jefferson also said this: If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.

And this: As to myself, I love peace, and I am anxious that we should give the world still another useful lesson, by showing to them other modes of punishing injuries than by war, which is as much a punishment to the punisher as to the sufferer.

For Jefferson’s sake I am glad he cannot see us now.