By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard
War became a business when we entered Vietnam. We went there for the wrong reasons. Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara admitted years later that he followed the flawed “Domino Theory” out of loyalty, and said it was the main reason for entering the Vietnam War.
McNamara's memoir “In Retrospect,” published in 1995, presented an account and analysis of the Vietnam War from his point of view. According to his lengthy New York Times obituary, "…he concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life.”
In 1995, he took a stand against his own conduct of the war, confessing in his memoir that it was “wrong, terribly wrong.” Remember, Americans were told from the very beginning that our involvement in Vietnam was about freedom and bringing democracy to that country.
We were told our freedom at home was threatened and the war was necessary. I call that misleading message the first “Big Lie.” Fifty-eight thousand American men and women died for that lie.
The second “Big Lie” to justify invading another country came when we unseated the Iraq government of Saddam Hussein. Once again we waved the flag of freedom to intervene when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
We eventually set up a new government in Iraq (a country that hates us), while bleeding American taxpayers dry. The price of this second Big Lie is still being calculated. I’ll say more about that shortly, but let’s move on to our third “Big Lie,” given for invading Afghanistan (which after a decade of war hates us).
After 9/11, this third “Big Lie” seized our shaken nation. We were told it was necessary to conquer Afghanistan and get Osama Bin Laden and his pack of extremist Muslim terrorists to make us safe at home. We finally got him all right - a decade later in Pakistan, sheltered by our allies there.
Meanwhile the financial impact on the American economy has been devastating. The price for these big lies is staggering, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting.
In a new report to Congress (6/6) this independent panel investigated U.S. wartime spending. As much as $60 billion has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents.
Here are some recent facts taken primarily from data analyzed by various think tanks, including The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, and from mainstream media sources ( 1/31/12).
1.) Spent & Approved War-Spending - About $1 trillion of US taxpayers' funds spent or approved for spending through 2011.
2.) Lost & Unaccounted for in Iraq - $9 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money and $549.7 million in spare parts shipped in 2004 to U.S. contractors. Also, per ABC News, 190,000 guns, including 110,000 AK-47 rifles.
3.) Lost and Reported Stolen - $6.6 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction, reported on June 14, 2011 by Special Inspector General for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, who called it "the largest theft of funds in national history." (Source - CBS News)
4.) Mismanaged & Wasted in Iraq - $10 billion, per Feb 2007 Congressional hearings.
Halliburton Overcharges Classified by the Pentagon as Unreasonable and Unsupported - $1.4 billion
5.) Amount paid to KBR, a former Halliburton division, to supply U.S. military in Iraq with food, fuel, housing and other items - $20 billion. Portion of the $20 billion paid to KBR that Pentagon auditors deem "questionable or supportable" - $3.2 billion
Just think of all the monies discussed above that could have gone into the American economy instead. One author, Rob Simpson, has managed to look at the lighter side in his book "What We Could Have Done With the Money: 50 Ways to Spend the Trillion Dollars We've Spent on Iraq."
As It Stands, my favorite part of this book is where Simpson calculates the $1 trillion we’ve spent on war could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system with 23.5 karat gold leaf!
Websites that have picked up this column:
1) ABC News Interceder - 135.7 articles per day – As It Stands ranked the 10th Most Read at 2:00 p.m. PST
2) Oil & Gas Newswire Topix - 1:a.m. Sunday