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Background: The Cost of Iraq: Who Pays the Price?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
UUSC is proud to play a leading role in the growing movement to responsibly end the Iraq war and the abuses it has engendered. By calling for peace, democracy, and the rule of law, we seek to rectify the grave harm done in the name of the "Global War on Terror," of which the Iraq war is a leading example.
"The Cost of Iraq: Who Pays the Price" is an attempt by UUSC's Civil Liberties Program to highlight the enormous damage that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has caused to our nation's democracy and international law.
Protecting the First Amendment
The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of people to participate in peaceful demonstrations, and the freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.
However, since the attacks on September 11, the U.S. government has aggressively introduced laws and policies that infringe on the First Amendment rights of Americans and foreign nationals, violating their civil liberties.
For instance, for many law-abiding Americans who oppose the Iraq war, the rights to freedom of speech and assembly have been threatened and in some cases violated. New U.S. security measures allow secret wiretapping, illegal surveillance of phone calls and e-mails through spy programs, and the review of financial and other records by the federal government.In his 1801 inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson highlighted the Bill of Rights and urged the preservation of government "in its whole Constitutional vigor as the anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad." Jefferson emphasized that these principles should be a guiding force for the United States and warned, "Should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety." These words deeply resonate with the challenges that we face today.
First Amendment rights of U.S. soldiers and veterans
Using a rights-based approach, UUSC actively supports men and women in the U.S. military as they return from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. As part of our opposition to the war in Iraq, we advocate for their right to speak out, petition Congress, and express dissent against the war.
Active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their families in the United States have articulated some of the most powerful reasons why the war in Iraq is unjust and why the fight to maintain our civil liberties is so crucial. Yet, some of these brave individuals, the very people who have put their lives on the line to serve our country, have had their rights limited by government officials.
UUSC defends the First Amendment rights of everyone, especially U.S. military personnel, to freely exercise their rights to dissent and petition Congress to responsibly withdraw combat forces from Iraq.
To guarantee their right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, UUSC advocates for and supports two national grassroots organizations: Appeal for Redress and Veterans for Peace. In 2007, Appeal for Redress presented a petition appealing for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq to members of Congress. It was signed by more than 2,000 active-duty soldiers, sailors, marines, and air force personnel, including over 300 officers.
Loss of lives and broken families
Families in Iraq and the United States have been devastated by the tragic loss of loved ones due to the Iraq war.
In the United States
One of the tragic outcomes of the Iraq war is the deplorable way in which the U.S. government has neglected the needs of military personnel, military recruits, and veterans. Since the invasion, combat personnel have been placed on the ground in Iraq in too few numbers to be effective, often without full-body armor or properly equipped vehicles.
More than 4,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and more than 30,000 have been seriously wounded.
Repeated tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have left many units demoralized and have contributed to the highest suicide rate in the history of the U.S. military. At present, the U.S. military is stretched so thin that it cannot meet our country's security needs around the world.
The Bush administration has failed to adequately care for the physical and financial well-being of wounded veterans — and their families. More than 25,000 active military personnel rely on food stamps to feed their families. Wounded veterans struggle to receive basic care and rehabilitation, while the burden of care falls to families. Overwhelmed and underfunded, Veterans Administration (V.A.) facilities lack the resources to provide adequate care for veterans, especially those that suffer from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Iraq war has not only destroyed vital infrastructure in Iraq, but also led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Although no one knows the exact number of Iraqis killed in the war, according to an October 2006 study by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, it is estimated to be more than 650,000.
Since the U.S. invasion in March 2003, over 5 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes by violence and insecurity. Roughly half of these are displaced throughout Iraq. Others have fled across international borders to Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Syria, and other neighboring countries. Because the vast majorities of these international refugees do not have official refugee status, they could be deported back to Iraq at any time.
Due to ongoing violence and insecurity, millions of Iraqis are unemployed and school-aged children are unable to attend classes. Whether in Iraq or in host countries, families face enormous challenges in finding housing and employment, obtaining food, and accessing health care and education systems. The international community has yet to implement a comprehensive humanitarian program to assist them.
UUSC supports legislation to assist Iraqi civilians and calls on Congress to increase funding for programs authorized under the Torture Victims Relief Act. We also advocate assistance for internally displaced Iraqis, Iraqi refugees in the region, and Iraqi refugees settling in the United States.
To learn more about the Iraqi displacement crisis, please visit http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/9679.
In 2004, Americans and people around the world were shocked to see pictures of U.S. soldiers torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Since then, details have surfaced about the use of torture in U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. Over the last several years, the United States' moral standing in the world has been undermined by the government's unprecedented and illegal assertion of authority to subject detainees to abusive interrogations, indefinite detention without charge (often in secret locations), and torture.
The right to be free of torture is one of the most fundamental human rights recognized by the global community today. In the United States, torture has been deemed abhorrent to our values and incompatible with our legal principles since the framing of the Constitution.
UUSC considers government-sponsored acts of torture, under any circumstances, profoundly immoral, unjustified, and illegal. We are committed to bringing such practices to an end.
» UUSC Recommendations to Congress to End Torture and Illegal Detention
» A Guide to Torture and Human Rights
There is no doubt that the war in Iraq has come at a huge economic price, draining our nation's resources and leaving a multitude of needs at home unmet.
Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate and former chief economist of the World Bank, has coauthored a book with Linda Bilmes, professor of public finance at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, called The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. The book, an in-depth look at the cost of the Iraq war, claims that the current price tag is a staggering $3 trillion.
By paying for the war "off the books" through emergency supplemental bills and borrowed dollars, the federal government has passed on the costs of this war to future generations. Because the normal congressional budgeting process has not been applied to funding the war in Iraq, its costs and expenditures have lacked transparency and accountability.
» Read UUSC's Statement on Iraq