On March 20, 2008, we will be remembering the 5th year anniversary of the war in Iraq. A war that has been opposed by majority of Americans. It should not have been authorized, waged and conducted. It is time for us to examine these 5 years to see what we have achieved and what we have lost. The cost of war in Iraq goes way beyond dollars and cents. It involves anguish, terror, humiliation, loss of life, wealth and property, not counting the loss of honour world wide. As Americans, it is our right to express our opinion about the consequences of the war in Iraq without being labelled unpatriotic. Living in the democratic country like ours, we should have the freedom to express our opinions without fear.
In the case of the Iraq war, it has become a common practice to differ with the government about our foreign policy abroad while at the same time supporting our troops and efforts to bring them home safely. Now that facts are out, we all agree that it was a war of choice, not imposed on us. This makes the terrible consequences of this war even harder to tolerate. It is important for us to make an extra effort to bring the war to an end sooner rather than later.
During this war Americans have suffered a lot. Total US casualties are approaching 4000, with over 29,000 wounded. There are many estimates about the cost of this war and estimates run from $500 billion to 2 trillion. According to congressional budget office, the Iraq war is costing $6 billion a month or $200 million a day. This brings the total cost of war so far to $2 trillion. This cost will go higher especially when we take into account the payment for the dead, wounded, long term rehabilitation, and psychiatric care, for example posttraumatic stress disorder (PSD). Suicide rate among GI’s also remains high. Our hard earned tax money that is subsidising the war can better be spent on our educational system or to improve our healthcare system.
Iraqi civilians have also suffered enormously. Iraq’s civilian casualty is from 700, 000 to 1.7millioin depending on source of the report. Four million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes. Many have become refugees in their own country. Innocent men and women have been jailed without any reason and suffered abuse and torture in the prisons. The current unemployment rate among Iraqis runs from 60 to 70% in some areas while before the war rates were similar to some areas in the US. This war has made life for many innocent people quite intolerable.
Another important casualty of war has been the loss of US prestige in the Muslim world as well as among many allies especially in Europe. US always had good relations with Muslim countries throughout the history. US helped liberate Bosnia and Kosovo. We have never invaded a Muslim country before Iraq except Kuwait out of necessity. It is a historical fact that after US had declared its independence from Britain, the first country to recognise it was Morocco, a Muslim country. Due to invasion of Iraq and suffering of Muslims there, The US has lost considerable good will on the part of Muslims. It may take decades before this damage can be repaired.
Other victims of Iraqi war and the so-called war on terror have been American Muslims themselves. They have suffered with increasing hate crimes and attacks on the mosques. Innocent people have been deported on minor visa violations. There have been countless cases of humiliating searches on airports and racial profiling. Many organisations have been unfairly targeted and many Muslim charities closed.
Let us add our voice to the millions of people around the world who want peace and end to this war. It is people’s voices that have brought changes in governments in United Kingdom, Spain and now in Australia. War protests have recorded some of the largest crowds in London and Rome in the past. In this time of election, we must remind our politician on which side of this issue we stand. It is essential that we all stand together as people of faith to push our leaders towards bringing this terrible and tragic war to an end.
[The writer is former President of Islamic Society of Clinton County and a board certified Nephrologist at Medical Associates in Clinton]