THE BLOG
03/01/2013 04:47 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2013

The GOP Got the U.S. Into the Sequestration Mess and Needs To Compromise Its Way Out Of It

With the sequester fast approaching, the Republican Party has forgotten that President George W. Bush racked up half our deficit on the War on Terror.

In 2008, TIME Magazine reported that the War on Terror had racked up 1 trillion dollars and The Wall Street Journal estimates that the total cost of the Iraq War will be 4 trillion dollars. While the GOP is trying to cut government jobs and reduce the number of public school teachers with forced budget cuts in efforts to "preserve tax payers' money", let's not forget about the trillion plus tax payer dollars that the GOP threw away towards the killing of over one million Iraqis and the displacement of an estimated 5 million others. Not to mention that the Iraq War has left our military so depleted that our national leaders must turn their heads the other way from Syria's atrocities.

As a high school student, I was a fierce opponent of the war in Iraq because the "eminent threats" seemed fake, just as they ended up being. A classmate of mine earnestly explained how he had read a report by Colin Powell about a "privately recorded" phone conversation in which Iraqis were reportedly taped saying "we have the weapons"; this all sounded very dubious. I got into huge arguments in my U.S. history class, telling my classmates that this would be a never ending war that would end like Vietnam; I was called unpatriotic and even accused of being Saddam Hussein's mistress in return.

Far from "liberating" Iraq, the U.S. invasion has left Iraq in complete disarray: The Washington Post reported that civilians suffer daily due to the "severe lack of electricity, refrigeration, water purification, and sewage treatment". Cholera, typhoid and other diseases like Hepatitis E have also increased in Iraq since the U.S. invasion, as the entire infrastructure has been broken down.

According to The New York Times, "As the number of widows has swelled during six years of war, their presence on city streets begging for food or as potential recruits by insurgents has become a vexing symbol of the breakdown of Iraqi self-sufficiency... As the war has ground on, government and social service organizations say the women's needs have come to exceed available help, posing a threat to the stability of the country's tenuous social structures." Relief International estimates there to be as many as 1.5 million Iraq war widows;one out of every ten Iraqi women. Some were widowed in the Iran-Iraq War and Desert Storm, but most are the result of the War on Terror. OxFam reports that under the U.S. Occupation, 75% of Iraqi widows were not receiving any sort of pension. The Iraq Minister of Women's Affairs estimates that as many as two million Iraqi women have been left as the sole breadwinners of their households.A large World Health Organization household survey estimates that seventeen percent of Iraqi women have been found to be suffering from serious, war-related mental illness.

A widow raising a girl and four boys on $250 per month told Reuters, "I wish the war never happened and my husband was still alive. What is his fault? What is the fault of the innocent people?"

Among the estimated 5 million people forced to flee Iraq (only one-eighth of whom had returned by 2008), The New York Times reported that Iraqi refugees women were turning to prostitution as their only means of survival in neighboring countries. One Iraqi mother explained, "During the war we lost everything. We even lost our honor."

I have always found it interesting that while Republican politicians and George W. Bush are strong advocates of abstinence-only policies, the GOP has spearheaded destructionist interventions that have left some women with no other economic choice than to sell their bodies.

In 2011, nine years into the occupation, fifty percent of Iraqis lived in slum conditions, up from its seventeen percent pre-invasion rate, with an astonishing 7 million out of Iraq's 30 million people living below the poverty line. The utter distraction and chaos caused by the conflict has left 4.5 million Iraqi orphans, 600,000 of whom live on the street.

Middle East History Professor Juan Cole said, "The American public still for the most part has no idea what the United States did to that country, and until we Americans take responsibility for the harm we do others with our perpetual wars, we can never recover from our war sickness, which drives us to resort to violence in international affairs in a way no other democracy routinely does."

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have found that developed countries that have been successful in reducing income inequalities through increased taxation and improved access to social services have been simultaneously successful in reducing infant mortality rates; the U.S has the highest infant mortality rate among comparable developed nations. Mortality, maternal depressive symptoms, low birth weight, children's hospitalizations rates for asthma and trauma, being overweight, smoking, homicide rates and another risk factors are all also tied to infant mortality and the outcomes of a population's health. By the GOP refusing to tax our nation's wealthiest citizens at higher rates than the rest of us pay, and by cutting social programs, they are resigning us to accepting a nation they are sacrificing the opportunities and wellbeing of the poor and middle classes for the mistakes they have made.

The GOP should be ashamed to propose downsizing public education, reducing overseers of our nation's meat and poultry quality, layoff thousands of people, and pose a great risk to our nation's fragile economy, not to mention threaten Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food assistance to our nation's poorest citizens as a solution to the deficit their party created. If the U.S. government had an extra trillion dollars on hand we would not be facing these cruel budget cuts.

It was George W. Bush's ignorance -- and dishonesty -- that got us into this financial mess. Meanwhile, Bush has contented himself with painting portraits of dogs after plundering our country's surplus and destroying our economy and millions of lives. It is time for the Republican Party to take responsibility for the deficit and make concessions when so much is at stake.

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