Department of Peace


Last week there was a lot of discussion in the news regarding how much the war in Iraq has cost in terms of dollars the US has spent.  (Lives lost and maimed, of course, is a different matter.)  The cost of the war was some gigantic, almost inconceivable amount of money — a trillion dollars or so.

Only God knows for sure, but there is the very real possibility that the ultimate assessment of the war will be that it caused more harm than good.  Saddam Hussein, evil though he was, seemed to have had the ability to govern Iraq in a manner that kept it from descending into endless civil war.   It is clear that a whole lot more Iraqis have died, been maimed, and been turned into refugees over the past four years than would ever have happened if Saddam Hussein had remained in power.  You can argue, of course, that short term sacrifice is necessary for long term transformation to take place towards the goal of creating a more just society, but it’s not looking real hopeful in that regard either.

From the American point of view, if the purpose of the war was to somehow make us safer, it is hard to see anything other than failure in this regard either.  If anything, there is a greater will abroad to do us harm through terrorism than there was before the war began.

So the possibility exists that a trillion dollars (just to talk on an economic level) has been spent for something that did more harm than good, which is a terrible thing to consider, especially for the families of American soldiers who died there.

I am not God, and perhaps in the long run there will be good that will come out of this, but I can’t see it, and I am inclined to believe that God is not a big proponent of war.  Too many little people get killed.

It astounds me that despite siphoning off a trillion dollars our economy by some measures is booming.  The stock market has been hitting all time highs.  Our country truly is incredibly rich, even though there is a significant portion of our population that don’t share much in the benefits of that wealth.

So we could have taken that trillion dollars, found something useful for the soldiers who have been fighting this war to do, and still had a ton of money left over for something constructive.  This is what liberal pundits have been doing a lot of lately, taking note of the fact that universal health care could have been underwritten for years and years with the money we’ve spent on this war.   We could have been better stewards of God’s good earth and invested the money into technologies that would have moved us away from our addiction to oil and slowed the pace of global warming.

Or we could have given the money away to other countries to feed their hungry and develop their health care and education systems.  Sure, there would have been enormous potential for corruption with such huge gifts of money, but what we’re comparing this expenditure of money to is a war that may well have done far more harm than good.

We have an extraordinary capacity for doing good if only we had the will.  Dennis Kucinich suggested there be a Department of Peace, led by a cabinet member. Maybe he has this right.   We could have boosted the Peace Corp so that all the young people who wanted to serve their country and risk their life could have had something really worthwhile to do.  All of this probably sounds crazy and naive, but the point is that the policies and budgets called for by so-called realists have been disasterous. Maybe it is time to chart a new course.

I watched a video last week by Bill Moyers that covered the history of the things that the CIA has done secretly over the past century by way of interfering in the political processes of other countries for the sake of establishing settings that were friendly in the short run towards our overseas business interests.  It was disheartening stuff.  Knowing the history of our involvement in Iran, for instance, helps us to understand that it isn’t simply a matter of people over there hating our freedom and way of life. Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Our foreign policy has too often involved providing weapons to regimes that seemed friendly to our business interests.

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