It is Independence Day, July 4th, 2011, 235 years removed from that hopeful document written in 1776. Where do we stand? The Washington Post gives us some insight into the nation's progress.
Amid a growing debate over how to bring down the government's debt, a new study has concluded that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan has cost up to $4 trillion ($4,000,000,000,000) over the past decade.
The study, by the nonpartisan Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, also estimates that at least 225,000 people, including civilians, troops and insurgents, have died as a result of the conflicts. Of that number, an estimated 6,000 were uniformed U.S. military personnel.
Pentagon spending accounts for only half of the budgetary costs incurred and represents a fraction of the full economic cost of the wars, according to the study. Among other line items, the study’s contributors — more than 20 economists, political scientists and other experts — estimate federal obligations to care for past and future veterans will eventually total $600 billion to $950 billion.
Here's my favorite quote.
The $4 trillion estimate could be fodder for lawmakers increasingly concerned that the United States can ill-afford to maintain a large military presence in Afghanistan.
The study’s authors say that’s a debate worth having.
“Some people will say that’s an expensive price tag, but what we’re trying to do makes it worth it."
"Other people will say we can’t afford it,” Catherine Lutz, co-director of the “Costs of War” project, said in an interview. “That’s the debate.”
A debate worth having. Some people will say... Other people will say...
- Some people will say the Earth is round and revolves around the Sun. Other people will say the Earth is flat and the Sun revolves around it.
- Some people will say the Earth is billions of years old. Other people will say the Earth is only some 6,000 years old and God planted those fossils in the ground to test our Faith.
- Some people will say we are headed for a mass extinction in the oceans. Other people will say that Nature's Bounty is endless.
- Some people will say the Earth can't possibly support all these billions of people. Other people will say God told us to be fruitful and multiply.
- Some people will say humans are changing the climate in a dangerous way by burning fossil fuels. Other people will say God told us to be fruitful and multiply.
- Some people will say we should learn to live in Peace & Harmony with Others who are unlike us. Other people will say we must convert the Others, or failing that, kill them.
And so on. It is in the spirit of Free & Open Debate that we celebrate our Independence Day.
The specific question on the table is whether the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks—at least 4 trillion dollars spent, at least 225,000 people killed, countless other lives disrupted—might have been disproportionate to the event, and thus should not continue.
But there is a larger question which Thomas Jefferson addressed 235 years ago.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security—such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world...
Enjoy your holiday.