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Iraq: An Unhappy Anniversary


Iraq: An Unhappy Anniversary
Carlotta Cooper

Hillary Clinton can't buy a headline this week. That old saying that "no news is good news" does not apply to political campaigns. On the day that Barack Obama gave his speech about racial unity in America, I sat down to listen to Senator Clinton give a speech on her plan for Iraq on CNN. Less than five minutes into the speech CNN cut away. It seems the combination of Senator Clinton and the war was too much for a cable news network to tolerate for very long and they had to explode with breaking news.

The war in Iraq is getting more attention this week, thanks to its five-year anniversary. In case you want to send something to President Bush, I'm told that wood and clocks are the traditional gifts, while silverware is the modern choice. Of course, we've already passed the milestones for the war in Afghanistan, which go unnoticed. It's been a war on the back burner, with diverted forces and resources, because of an obsession with Iraq.

According to a CNN poll, 71 percent of Americans now think that government spending on the war in Iraq is partly responsible for the economic troubles in the United States. Only 32 percent of those polled now support the war. And 61 percent said the next president should remove most troops from Iraq within a few months of taking office. The poll surveyed 1,019 adult Americans from March 14 to 16.

Where were these people five years ago? I just wonder why nearly 4,000 American troops had to die for people to reach these conclusions, and why our economy had to go bust from spending nearly $12 billion per month on a war of choice. Why did it take so long for people to stop eating the pablum that Bush and Cheney were feeding the American public?

A pair of leading economists, Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor who chaired President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, and Linda J. Bilmes, a former chief financial officer at the Commerce Department who now teaches at Harvard University, wrote in the Washington Post earlier this month that the war will end up costing our government (and us) about $3 trillion, including factors such as future disability payments for injured veterans, interest payments on money borrowed to finance the war, and the costs resulting from disrupted oil markets. But can they really be that definite? What if we stay in Iraq indefinitely, as John McCain proposes?

It's imperative for all of these reasons that we elect a new president who will end the war in Iraq and begin bringing our troops home. Our economy cannot continue to rebuild Iraq, support two countries, and field an occupation force. I speak as someone who has had a loved one serving in Iraq. I have someone there right now. I know people with Traumatic Brain Injury. I know people who have lost limbs and been burned over 60 percent of their bodies. I knew some of those dead. I know that our troops are admirable and distinguished. They have done all that's been asked of them, often with a lack of equipment and preparation by their superiors. But it's time to bring them home. We don't need to lose any more lives in Iraq. We need to move on and devote our energy and our resources to restoring America.