The Real Costs of War 

Several newspapers and websites covered President Bush's visit to Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio earlier this week. The pictures were gut-wrenching. The president toured the facility, meeting soldiers who had lost arms, legs, eyes, ears, even faces in combat in Iraq.

Bush moved through the hallways, greeting the wounded with a wry smile and his typical bonhomie. As he watched one soldier — blind and legless — climb a wall, he turned to the soldier's mother and said, "He's a good man, isn't he?" Yes, Mr. Bush, he is. And he was probably even a better man before an IED maimed him for life.

One hopes that Bush came away from his visit with some deeper understanding of the human costs of his administration's unilateral and unnecessary war.

But it's doubtful. As the president exited the hospital, impressed by the good medical work he'd just seen, he took a moment to advocate for better government support for wounded veterans. Apparently, Bush was unaware that the high-tech rehabilitation facility he'd just visited was entirely supported by private funds.

A new report on the financial costs of war was released this week by congressional Democrats. The report cited the costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at nearly $1.5 trillion — so far. It's an amount that is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008. The report estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.

The report also says that our war funding is diverting billions of dollars away from "productive investment" by American businesses. It adds that National Guardsmen and reservists are being kept from their jobs, resulting in economic disruptions for U.S. employers estimated at $1 billion to $2 billion. Gas prices, the report further notes, have tripled since the beginning of the war.

Critics say these figures are inflated. We say, inflated or not, it's quite obvious that the cost of endless war on two fronts has depleted our economy, pushed our armed forces to the breaking point, and inflicted immeasurable human suffering on our soldiers and their families — not to mention the Iraqi people.

As has been demonstrated over and over again, the way to fight terrorism is through police work and our intelligence agencies. Invading a country under the guise of "keeping America safe from terrorism" makes about as much sense as the old Vietnam canard: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

In this case, we fear, we are destroying our own village. It is time for congressional Democrats to do more than issue reports. It is time to stop the madness of this no-win war.

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