It's good to have some numbers now: 10,000 Iraqi civilians dead, and 5,000 Bad Guys still alive, give or take a few here and there. Numbers with a tidiness inversely proportional to the messiness of the war.
With the Iraqi population numbered at 24 million and the cost of the war figured at $40 billion (for 10 months so far), with $87.5 billion more scheduled for delivery soon, we so far have targeted $5,312 at each Iraqi man, woman and child. If we earmark only half the $87.5 billion to kill the remaining 5,000 Bad Guys, then each remaining Bad Guy's death will cost us $8.75 million, with the other half left over to clean up the messes. Since we have no numbers on how many Bad Guys were killed in the earlier phases of the war, their deaths are incalculable.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently complained about the "cost-efficiency ratio" of the war. Adversaries of the United States, he said, spend a mere million for every billion we put out.
Are we getting our money's worth? A lot depends on how we count.
Let's, for example, figure that each dead Iraqi, Bad Guy or not, typically has parents, a child or two, a grandparent, a favorite grocer, barber, baker, banker, several neighbors and acquaintances, a half-dozen close friends, dozens more cousins and in-laws, a few living abroad, perhaps here in the United States.
How many do we include in the typical sphere of influence emanating from the bull's-eye center of each casualty? A hundred or more individuals, from friendly to intimate? How many of these spheres of influence overlap -- and how many reach back to the first Gulf War and beyond to our longtime support of Saddam Hussein before 1990? What percentage of individuals in these overlapping spheres will turn out to be our friends?
The casualties in all wars, civilian or not, speak through the actions of those who survive to carry the burdens and grief of the victims of war. Can we honestly say that if one of our children or aunts were killed by a bomb or stray bullet made in the U.S.A. we'd love the Americans more than we do the oppressor Saddam? How can we keep the poison from spreading to the schoolyard, the neighborhood, the mosque?
So what's the bottom line?
Our expensive killing machines are winning more recruits for extremists determined to push radical agendas by inspiring victims to avenge their dead. Worldwide terrorism is spreading, in part because the moral force of spreading "democracy and freedom" through military might is bankrupt and has little appeal to the masses who would welcome democracy and freedom. People worldwide are not clueless about how the profits of those running the military/industrial complex are swelling, even as the gap between rich and poor both worldwide and in the United States is widening.
There are more effective ways to get at the root causes of "terrorism." Economic, educational, moral, and diplomatic power is forceful and real. This kind of power requires patience, imagination, and cooperation. It requires new thinking, a new start, new leadership with fresh ideas. And it will trim billions from the huge debt that will diminish our schools, municipalities, health services, and children for decades to come.
Emilio Degrazia, of Winona, is a writer and professor emeritus at Winona State University.
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