paraphrase Shakespeare, "We have waded in blood
so deep that to return is as dangerous as to go
forward." We are stuck in Iraq. Period. We can't
leave, we can't afford to stay, we can't go back
to status quo ante. No apologies from the Bush
administration about lack of planning for "victory"
will permit us to leave. True, a pipeline explosion,
a firefight, another soldier killed has moved
from the front pages of our newspapers to Page
5 or 6, but the realities of the situation are
indeed daunting and will dominate the campaign
Iraq will cost between $400 billion and $600 billion.
Military costs for Afghanistan and Iraq are $6
billion or 7 billion per month and things are
not going so well in either place. American influence
in Afghanistan is limited to Kabul. No one is
even asking the cost of rebuilding Afghanistan.
If administration officials know, they are not
talking. What is the plan to hold Afghanistan?
Will it be to send more troops to act as targets
for terrorism or leave it to NATO? Any bets on
how long NATO countries will remain if German,
Dutch and French soldiers are regularly killed?
years of sanctions and two wars against Iraq have
left them in a desperate condition. Suppose we
had an administration that leveled with the people
and a president who would go on national television
and explain that we are obligated to rebuild their
hospitals, schools, highways, airports and indeed
their economy. Suppose he said, "My fellow Americans.
We are going to spend 600 billion dollars over
the next three years to rebuild this country.
To raise that money, we are going to ask all Americans,
including the wealthy, to contribute to the cause.
We will begin by repealing the tax cuts. And we
will cut our defense budget by $100 billion per
he admitted that postwar Iraq cannot be rebuilt
while it remains an active war zone and to stop
that war, we need more troops. "Turns out the
people who were anti-Saddam are not really pro-American.
Why? Possibly because we armed Saddam for our
interests in Iran, but we can't ignore 12 years
of misery exacted by our sanctions. And no one
likes an occupying army."
would happen if George Bush were suddenly hit
with an irresistible urge to tell the truth? The
right wing of his party would probably call for
a new candidate in 2004. These extremists don't
care how much it costs. Why? Because the true
believers like Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth,
described in the New York Times magazine as "a
group of zealous economic conservatives," are
out to destroy government as we have known it
since the Great Depression. The Club for Growth
and other extremists who control the Republican
agenda want to create huge budget deficits to
force government to get out of the business of
governing. Let the private sector do it all. Poverty
and suffering are not their concern.
we are in mid-August, a mere 14 months from the
next election for president, and we are broke.
This is like the bride and groom discussing where
they will go for an exotic honeymoon while filling
out their Chapter 7 bankruptcy form and cutting
up their credit cards.
Democrats and independents assume that Bush and
the boys just stumbled into this mess. It was
a lack of planning, incompetence, or bad luck
that we were not ready for an ill-equipped and
less than competent Iraqi army to collapse. But
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Vice
President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld are very smart people with access to
the best and most thoughtful information available
anywhere and this mess was known in advance and
accepted as part of their election strategy.
how they have set the table for this election.
America, burdened with Iraq, Afghanistan, and
huge domestic deficits can't afford Social Security,
Medicare, Medicaid, smaller class size, more money
for special education, affordable housing, new
bridges, or an efficient power grid. So what is
there to talk about? Terrorism on Monday, Wednesday
and Friday and defense needs on Tuesday and Thursday.
Privatization on the weekend.
the Democratic nominee demands single-payer national
health care, the right wing talk show hosts will
squeal in unison that we "can't afford it." And,
since taxes have been shifted from the wealthy
and the corporate sector to the individual through
payroll taxes, property taxes, user fees and sales
tax, the Republicans will demand more tax cuts.
When faced with a $500 billion deficit on top
of $60 billion or $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan,
not to mention rebuilding costs, Bush will argue
the old bromide of supply siders: "Eliminate taxes
and the wealthy will invest in America."
Cosell used to say, "You deserve whatever you
get." I never quite accepted that thought but
if we permit the anti-government folks to dominate
the debate in 2004, we will deserve another four
years of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. But before
we move to the domestic agenda, where poverty,
failing schools, poor health care, lack of affordable
housing, decaying inner cities compel our attention,
we must demand real answers from the administration
on the plans for turning the Iraq "problem" over
to the United Nations, the cost of rebuilding
Iraq and how much they are prepared to commit
to that task.
deserve some honesty from those responsible for
our troops in Iraq. Perhaps the congressional
Democrats should follow the lead of Texas Democrats
and simply shut down the place until Bush answers
these questions: "How much, how long, how many
troops, what's the plan?" Unless they get the
answers, pity the poor Democrat who wins the nomination.
Garvey, a Madison lawyer and the editor of the
www.fightingbob.com website, was the Democratic
nominee for governor in 1998.
August 20, 2003