Crossposted on michael-peacock.com
The pedophelia scandal created by Republican congressman Mark Foley may seem like mana from heaven for Democrats seeking to regain some measure of control over the runaway train that our federal government has become, but I suspect that it won’t make much of a difference come election day. That Republicans have known about, and apparently abetted, Foley’s illegal conduct will not sway the Republican faithful. After all, when seen against the lightbox of other Republican abuses, incompetencies, fiascos, and outright disasters, this scandal fades to insignificance, outshined and outclassed by other more monstrous debacles. And none of those obscenities have had much sway with Republican true believers. No, not only has the Republican party by and large turned a blind eye to these abuses, it has, in so doing, been complicit in their creation. Yes, a fair share of Democrats have been along for this little train ride, but it is the Republican party that has kept the boiler fire stoked.
Take for example, the Iraq War. With over 2600 Americans dead, and over 20,000 wounded, we have paid a very dear price for whatever it is we have or have not accomplished there. Now, a study by The Lancet, a very well respected medical journal, has estimated the number of Iraqi dead at 655,000 – a number roughly the same as the population of cities like Austin, TX, and Baltimore, MD. That the administration and other Republican toadies would question the accuracy of this estimate is no big surprise – anything that makes the situation look worse is typically hidden, denied, or attacked. That they claim that the proper way to estimate the Iraqi death toll is to conduct an accurate body count – and that they can claim this with a straight face – is appalling given that US commanders admitted as far back as 2003 that they simply do not conduct body counts. The “official” casualty numbers place the Iraqi casualties in the neighborhood of 45,000 dead, and some much higher number wounded. I find it offensive that our leaders will cite such numbers with the modifier “only”, as in: The Iraqi death toll is only 30,000. An interesting position given this “Republican culture of life” and its claims about the preciousness of each and every human life.
Aside from the massive human tragedy, there’s the obscene cost of the war effort. In September 2004, when John Kerry was rightly accused of inflating estimates by asserting that the war had cost “$200 Billion and counting”. No no, went the Bush argument, we have only spent $120 Billion. You’re soft on terrorists, and you might be one too.
Of course, we passed the $200 Billion mark long ago – in 2005 not long after the contentious presidential election to be precise. Today, the “official” direct price tag is over $350 Billion, but many economists look beyond the dollars we’re spending now on fighting the war, and also consider future health care costs for wounded troops as well as the impact of interest on the national debt. Some of these economists put the “real” cost of the war between $500 Billion and $2 Trillion.
Most people simply have no concept of how utterly immense these numbers are, so let’s just examine the most optimistic number, the official cost of the war on terror is about $350 Billion. That’s 350 followed by nine zeros. In scientific notation this is 3.5 X 1011 dollars, or when written out in standard currency format that’s $350,000,000,000.00. If you started counting as fast as you could possibly count, which might be on the order of 10 numbers in a second, you would have to count non-stop for over 1100 years to get to 350,000,000,000. Now, imagine that those aren’t just numbers, they’re dollars. Your tax dollars, to be precise. And now remember that this is the rosiest of estimates. To get to $2 Trillion, you would be counting dollars for over 6300 years – longer than current recorded history.
OK – so the war is expensive. Really, really, really expensive both in terms of human death and suffering, as well as the dollars that we’re throwing at it. “We’re red-blooded Americans”, the Republican refrain goes, “we’re not going to run away from a fight when the going get’s tough. We’re going to adapt to win*”
No we’re not.
The US has already won the war in Iraq. What we see now is the result of failing to plan adequately for the occupation of Iraq that everyone expected following the clear and decisive victory everyone expected. That the Republican party still talks about the Iraq war reflects either stupidity on their part, which is unlikely since they really are pretty bright, or more likely – a willingness to trust their elected officials to a fault. In this regard, I view Republicans more like battered spouses than hawkish war lovers. Their leaders abuse all of our trust – again and again and again – and the Republican party faithful is ready to accept each apology, each broken promise, and each new abuse out of some twisted love for what their leaders once were, and a fear of what unknown fate would await them if they simply stood up and refused to keep on taking it on the chin.
New abuses? Yes. Surely you remember: Overselling WMDs, claiming that we only needed 100,000 troops to keep the peace in Iraq, the Republican attempt to privatize Social Security, the out of control national debt created by this administration’s upside-down policies, the obscene trade deficit that puts us in the pocket of foreign interests, our total failure to find diplomatic solutions to complex foreign policy crises – including the creation of a new and hostile nuclear power, domestic surveillence, wire tapping, large-scale email and other database trolling, the suspension of the writ of Habeus Corpus, secret prisons and prisoner abuse scandals, as well as our new “flexible” definition of torture that not only both violates the Geneva Conventions and puts all our men and women in uniform at risk, but which also runs counter to over 200 years of American judicial and moral tradition.
Oh yeah, and then there’s that little thing about the Republican pedophile in Congress that the other Republicans knew about and kept quiet. Come on – the Republican party drank the cool-aid long ago. You don’t think think this new intensification of that bitter almond flavor would faze them, do you?
* “Adapt to win” replaced the previous White House talking points, “Stay the course” this past summer. Too bad the talking point miss the fact that we have already won in Iraq, and now we’re an occupying force that’s fighting a domestic insurgency – a contingency that the Bush neocons rejected even when their best planners outlined the scenario in 2002 saying we would be greeted as liberators instead.