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This is Your Bill for the War
Published on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 by the Cape Cod Times
This is Your Bill for the War
by Sean Gonsalves
 

Amount you owe for the war in Iraq: $4,000. Make check payable to Uncle Sam's Iraq Quagmire Fund. If you dispute any portion of this bill call 1-800-IMPEACH-THIS.

According to Doug Henwood, author of "After the New Economy," $4,000 is the amount that each household will have to fork over in taxes to foot the Iraq occupation bill.

"I feel a little callous about talking about the economic impact of the war in Iraq, which seems like an afterthought next to the human toll. But at a time when civilian budgets are being cut at every level, when clinics are closing and professors at our public universities have to pay for their own photocopying because there's allegedly not enough money, it's amazing how much we're spending," Henwood says.

Henwood pegs the military costs in Iraq to date at about $143 billion, with the tab rising $4 billion to $5 billion a month.

Reconstruction has cost about $20 billion so far, with another $50 billion to $100 billion still needed, Henwood reports.

"If the occupation goes on for three years, which is what the military pundits say is likely, the total bill could come to $362 billion. Add to that an estimated 0.5 percent knocked off GDP growth because of high oil prices, and that's another $50 billion," he says.

Add it all up, and the bill comes to nearly $4,000 per household, not including interest. "I wonder how people would react if they got a bill from Washington for that amount," he said.

In other war economy news, Pratap Chatterjee, program director for CorpWatch, recently returned from his second investigative trip to Iraq. Chatterjee is the co-author of a new "alternative annual" report on Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer.

The report, titled "Houston, We Have a Problem," was released last week, the day before the Halliburton shareholder meeting.

"Our report describes Halliburton's estimated $9 billion in contracts and the various complaints and allegations of wrongdoing that have been lodged against the company," Chatterjee told the Institute for Public Accuracy last week.

You've probably heard about similar allegations with Halliburton over the past year or so, but Chatterjee is talking about new charges of fraud, waste, and corruption - more than any other Iraq contractor.

The allegations range from overcharging $61 million for fuel and $24.7 million for meals, to kickbacks worth $6.3 million.

"Cheney's income from being vice president is about the same as what he gets from Halliburton. Why is the vice president of the U.S. getting a paycheck from the company that has benefited more than any other to date from the invasion of Iraq, which he pushed?" Chatterjee wonders.

Cheney deferred his payment as CEO of Halliburton so he could lower his tax liability, while at the same time U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing Halliburton ventures. Halliburton paid only $15 million in taxes in 2002, according to Chatterjee, who is also the author of the forthcoming book "Iraq, Inc."

Did Chatterjee say U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing Halliburton? Jim Vallette, research director for the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, points out: "There has been over $7 billion in taxpayer-financed institutional support for Halliburton's projects led by the World Bank Group and the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

"Halliburton's global expansion has been financed by the U.S. taxpayer. We recently completed a study ('The Energy Tug-of-War: Winners and Losers in World Bank Fossil Fuel Finance'), which found that Halliburton benefited more than any other company from the World Bank's fossil fuel financing." (Go to www.seen.org for the full report).

And allow me just one observation on the conservative "enough already" reaction to the Iraqi abuse scandal. To argue that Iraqi prisoner abuse is not as bad as the beheading of Nick Berg should embarrass thinking adults. You don't do ethics by keeping a tit-for-tat body-count score card. And to say we are better than terrorists is a red herring.

It's like a murderer comparing himself to a serial killer. "Hey, I only killed one person but this guy is sick." You judge yourself by the highest standards; not the lowest.

Whatever happened to the conservative disdain for arguments that smack of moral relativism?

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist.

Copyright © Cape Cod Times.

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