Its now clear that following the 2006 mid-term elections, after having been repeatedly lied to for six years by the Republican administration, the American Left was ignored and then peremptorily dumped by the Democratic leadership in the Congress. That leadership, which has been in office since the start of the year, is supposed to be in charge of Congress - a Congress, however, that now has a confidence rating of 14%, the lowest since Gallup started asking the question in 1973 and five points lower than the Republicans scored last year.
Hows the War Going?
The quick answer: terribly.
We now have 160,000 troops (plus several thousand government personnel) stationed in Iraq, an all-time high. The war is in high gear in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the monthly cost of $12 billion ($10 billion for Iraq), a third higher than in 2006, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. The predicted cost of a one-year surge of 30,000-40,000 troops, according to the Congressional Budget Office was $22 billion (two years for a cut-rate $40 billion). (In January 2007 when the surge got underway, the President predicted the cost would be $5.6 billion.)
Regarding the cost of the war, moveon.org has now calculated the cost for each state and for each congressional district. The total amount for the entire country is $456 billion, which will last through September. Michigans share so far is $12.12 billion. The 4th congressional district (Rep. Dave Camp) is in for $645 million, the 2nd (Rep. Peter Hoekstra) is in for $759 million, and the 1st (Rep. Bart Stupak) is $607 million. Each household in the United States has been tapped for $4,100.
Based on the populations of Michigan counties as of the last census, Ive worked out these figures (based on a per capita percentage basis): the cost of the war for Grand Traverse County is $101.8 million; Leelanau County, $26.6 million; Benzie County, $20.6 million; Charlevoix County, $31.5 million; and Emmet County, $40.0 million. As for the 4th congressional district, moveon.orgs report says that instead of funding the war, its taxpayers could have gotten: health care coverage for 238,880 people or for 475,071 kids for the duration of the war; or Head Start for 104,200 additional kids; or 9,694 new elementary school teachers; or 75,443 scholarships to make college more affordable; or renewable electricity for 976,870 homes; or 5,603 affordable housing units; or 15,028 public safety officers to keep the streets safe. (As you can see, for example, folks involved in such civic efforts as that of resisting the closing of the Bertha Vos Elementary School are simply fighting the trickle-down effects of the war in Iraq.)
The death toll is now 3,707 American military personnel, and 27,186 wounded. Of the American wounded, an estimated six percent suffer amputations. (The average in earlier U.S. conflicts, where the equivalents of IEDs and car bombings did not play such a role, was three percent.) And, of course, thanks to enterprising reporters (not to the Pentagon or the Congress), we know what happens to the wounded when they are returned to VA and military hospitals in the U.S.
According to figures compiled by the Iraqi Health, Defense, and Interior Ministries, the number of Iraqi civilians who died in July 2007 was 1,652. The Associated Press put that figure at 2,024, and the Washington Post said it was 1,539. Middle East scholar Juan Cole (of the University of Michigan) says the approximate number of American civilians who would have died in July if a similar level of killings were underway in the United States was 18,000. And the estimated number of Iraqi deaths from the invasion of 2003 through June 2007 was just over one million, according to Just Foreign Policy. Meanwhile, between two million and 2.5 million Iraqis have fled their country, with another 40,000-50,000 departing each month (nearly 2,000 a day), according to UN figures.
Moving for a moment into relative trivia, here are the figures for what is perhaps the most basic staple of life, drinking water. According to the UN, only one in three Iraqis have access to clean drinking water. In 2007, waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, the most prolific killer of children under five, are up in some areas by 70 percent over the previous year.
Hows the Antiwar Movement Going?
The quick answer: not so good.
Its been clear for some time that people in Europe and Canada have been amazed at the complacency of the American antiwar movement. But now theres a growing number of observers here at home who feel the anti-war movement in this country has fallen asleep. For sure, says Alexander Cockburn of The Nation magazine, there are actions around the country. Quakers and Unitarians picketing outside shopping centers, campus vigils, resolutions by city counsels and so forth. [But] its all pretty quiet. . . . The bulk of the antiwar movement has become subservient to the Democratic Party and to the agenda of its prime candidates for the presidency in 2008. . .
Cockburn concludes (for the moment) by saying that the Democrats have signed off on funding the war, the Guantanamo detentions, the new and looser definitions of torture, and, just recently, Bushs police-state orders of July 17. The fact of the matter is that the Democrats have just given up. And guess what? he adds. Just as their poll numbers are going down, Bushs are going up, by five points in Gallup from early July... So are we better or worse off since the Democrats won back the Congress?
Its enough to make a true antiwar activist furious. And it should make all Americans, especially Democrats, activists or not, furious.
Okay, So What Do I Do?
The quick answer: get involved, decide what you want to do, then do it. Now.
Thats the easy part. You can do it in this area by joining the Traverse Area Peace and Justice Community, the Northern Michigan People for Peace in Petoskey, the Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace and Justice, the Women in Black, the Quaker Fellowship, Universal Unitarian Church, Veterans for Peace, or some other similar organization or church of your choice. Just do it! You can start by checking out www.traverseareapeacealerts.com to find out more.
Steve Morse practiced law for 30 years in Indiana, and served on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame Law School. He served for eight years as president of the board of the ACLU of Northwest Michigan. Also active in the antiwar movement, he is retired and lives in Suttons Bay.