Editorial Column: The Cost of of the Iraq War


“The truth is dark under your eyelids. What are you going to do about it?” – Against the Winter by Charles Simic

“What is the cost of war,” you ask? Might as well ask, “What is the cost of eternity?”

They say the total cost of the War on Terror out to some vague point in the future will approach $2.4 trillion. A war against a psychological political ideology will cost $2.4 trillion. Think about that.

I read another estimate that said the war in Iraq is currently costing $2 billion a week. This from an administration that lost pallets full of money to the tune of $9 billion in cash that cannot be accounted for.

Tracking insanity is crazy. Somewhere, someone much smarter than I am can show you how many schools could have been funded for our children, how much health insurance coverage a struggling family could have had, how many new bridges and roads, jobs, etc. etc. could have been repaired, developed, and maintained. The list is unending.

But here’s the thing; all wars start with small numbers that erupt into huge unfathomable “can’t imagine” statistics that absolutely stun us. Hard to get your head around “conceptual” trillions upon trillions and oodles and mega-oodles of money that can’t possibly exist every time you peek at your wallet.

So while the great punditocracy speak of trillions of dollars, let us look at some real numbers.

The math of war:

An M16A2 is 36.93 inches long; with sling and a 30-round magazine, weighs 8.79 lbs. and has an effective range of 800 meters (area target) and 550 meters (point target) and takes approximately 4.25 pounds of trigger pressure to end life.

The weight of sadness and devastation is 5.5 grams or 1.94 ounces per bullet.

The muzzle velocity is 2,800 feet per second traveling at the speed of death.

A GI — one each, O.D. in color, average weight, 170 lbs. average age of 24, sent to do battle while leaving behind two parents, a spouse/significant other and 2.3 children within the immediate family. Add to that an uncle or two, an aunt, and three cousins and you total 12.3 people.

One AK-47 (used and leftover from previous wars) is 39 inches long; with a 30-round banana clip weighs 9.2 lbs. and has an effective rang of 780 meters (area target) and 300 meters (point target) and takes approximately 3.75 lbs. of trigger pressure to end life.

The weight of sadness and devastation is 9.75 grams or 2.8 ounces per bullet.

The muzzle velocity is 2,400 feet per second traveling at the speed of death.

One Iraqi male, average weight 140 lbs., average age 25, dual role of citizen/bad guy either resistance fighter or collateral damage, with two parents, wife, and 4 children within the immediate family. Add in two uncles, three aunts, and a dozen cousins for a total of 25 people.

Now multiply the GI numbers by 140,000 troops and you have 1,722,000 immediate family members and relatives waiting, praying, dreading each and every day their loved ones serve in the war. Still waiting in the wings are the extended family, friends, and neighbors.

As there doesn’t seem to be readily available numbers on the size of the Iraq resistance/enemy forces, let’s take a conservative 150,000 “enemy” count involved in fighting and you get: 3,750,000 immediate family and relatives in the direct path of the war.

If I were to ask questions, here is what I would ask:

* How much does a tear drop weigh?

* What is the fair market value of a broken heart?

* If a dollar bill only weighs 1 gram, is it still heavy enough to buy back the lie that killed?

* Can a thousand memories fill the empty side of the bed at night as she cries herself to sleep?

* How many times can you rub the smiling photograph before you ever feel the skin of love you once held in your arms?

* What is the speed of yesterday when all your tomorrows ended at 3:21 p.m. on Jubaili Road?

* And Mr. President, when you cry on the shoulder of God, do you ever look down into His lap and see the war dead that He cradles tenderly, wishing He had the power to stop you?

What is the cost of war?

More than we can bear.

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