'US unable to afford its huge war costs'
Fri Oct 1, 2010 7:27AM
An interview with Gareth Porter, Historian and Investigative Journalist
US troops in Iraq
A new study shows that the long-term costs of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq doubles initial estimates, suggesting the revised six-trillion-dollar figure.
Apart from the new estimates by the Nobel Prize winner for economics Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University Professor Linda Bilmes, more than a million of the American veterans are either seeking post-combat care or applying for disability benefits.
The following is the transcript of Press TV's interview with Gareth Porter, historian and investigative journalist from Washington:
Press TV: It's not just about the healthcare costs for veterans, is it? Vague objectives, changing strategies, and unclear exit plans have a lot to do with the course and costs of these wars, would not you agree?
Gareth Porter: Obviously, the full cost of the war is everything that has caused to put soldiers into war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to maintain them as well … the cost of taking care of them after they are injured. The latter cost has not really been taken into account seriously, either by economists or by political figures in the United States. That is why it is such a big story.
Press TV: How do you think those who have criticized Obama for setting an "exit date" to respond to this? Will they continue to defend open-ended, overseas wars at a time of economic uncertainty despite the price tag?
Gareth Porter: I saw the initial reaction to the costs of the war as now estimated by Stiglitz and his associates. The idea of adding that explicitly to the administration's appropriations bills for the war has been attacked initially by the people in Congress who say it makes the costs of the war look astronomical.
The reality is that … the cost of war is indeed astronomical and you are simply living in a dream world to think that it is otherwise. So, the real question here is whether Congress responds to this new information and to the suggestion that has been appropriately made by some in Congress, this needs to be added to the cost of the war in the actual appropriations themselves, whether Congress will respond honestly and do that or whether they try to protect politically the pro-war and political factions in the government and in this country by continuing the status quo, like a sort of trying to continue to deny the reality that this cost is so high that this country simply cannot afford it.
Press TV: House Veterans Affairs Chairman [Bob Filner] has called this a crisis bigger than the Medicare and Social Security problems. After nine years of war and its expansion to somewhat include Pakistan as well, is it too late for the US to climb out of a hole it has dug up for itself?
Gareth Porter: Politically speaking, of course, we are facing a battle and trying to end this war because of the political cost of it. The institutional interests of the military itself, being so enormous, that the military is absolutely determined to avoid having to end this war any time soon. But I think the political reality that is now being revealed is that the costs to society are so enormous that there has to be a political decision by people at grass roots as well as the people in Congress and surrounding the president that this must be brought to an end. The obvious way to do that is for President [Barack] Obama to … negotiate a settlement with the Taliban which would be a settlement that gives a timetable for a full withdrawal of the US troops in return for the Taliban saying that they were ensured that the al-Qaeda cannot have any place in the post-war Afghan society or any physical location in Afghanistan once the war is over.
We know the Taliban are willing to do that and we know that this would serve the vital national security of the Unites States underlying the war and there is no reason why to do this except for institutional interests of the military.