Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Opinion

June 24, 2014

Iraq War: Valor and malfeasance

INDIANAPOLIS – We should remember Staff Sgt. Richard Blakley of Plainfield. And Lance Cpl. Matthew Smith of Anderson, Spec. Gregory Paul Sanders of Hobart and Sgt. CraigBoling of Elkhart.

These were Hoosiers who answered their nation’s patriotic call to duty, left their families behind, went to the Iraq War and paid the ultimate price. As did Pvt. Robert McKinley of Kokomo, Sgt. Kyle Childress of Terre Haute, Cpl. Cody Putman of Lafayette and Sgt. Brock Babb of Evansville.

Today, we watch in horror as an army of terrorists, the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, sweep down from the failed state of Syria into the teetering state of Iraq, stealing millions of dollars from banks in Mosul and slaughtering thousands of “infidels” in their midst. The Iraqi troops we spent billions of dollars training and equipping laid down their arms, climbed out of U.S.-built Humvees, slipped out of their uniforms and fled, leaving a cache of military hardware for the invaders.

What is so painful about all of this is that in addition to the nearly 100 Hoosiers and 4,300 Americans who laid down their lives in Iraq, the more than 32,000 more who were wounded, the estimated 134,000 Iraqi civilians killed and millions who became refugees, we spent an estimated $1.7 trillion on a clueless adventure. We owe another $490 billion to Iraq war veterans in benefits.

A Brown University Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies estimates that the ultimate cost could grow to $6 trillion. Reuters reported that a 2011 study found U.S. medical and disability claims for veterans after a decade of war totaled $33 billion. Two years later, that number had risen to $134.7 billion.

Imagine if that $1.7 trillion had been invested in infrastructure, education, research and development at home?

The National Priorities Projects, a nonprofit research group, puts the cost of the Iraq War “military action” at $816 billion, saying that this figure could have provided 4.75 million students Pell Grants of $5,550; equipped 4 million households with wind power; hired 65,000 new police officers; supplied 5 million veterans with VA medical care; and paid 100,000 elementary school teachers each year for a decade.

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