“War Derails Investment in Future”

Like other Americans, Floridians might want to ask their elected representatives to explain where we’re headed in Iraq. The Iraq war has been poorly planned and badly executed from the start. And the costs and consequences have been devastating.

Take the human costs. More than 1,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed, 70 from Florida. More than 12,000 have been wounded, including 548 Floridians. In addition, an article published in a British medical journal, The Lancet, reported the results of cluster-sample surveys in Iraq, which estimated deaths due to the war. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, possibly 100,000, have died since the invasion.

Then there’s the money. Quickly moving through Congress is another administration request to allocate more funding for the Iraq war. If this request passes, Florida’s taxpayers will be committed to paying around $11 billion. And that’s just the cost through this year.

Based on estimates done by the Congressional Budget Office, the war in Iraq may cost an additional $300 billion over the next several years. Florida taxpayers would have to pay another $16 billion for their share.

For some perspective, consider that $11 billion is enough to pay for one year’s health-care coverage for 2.4 million Floridians, or 80 percent of the state’s uninsured. Alternatively, 50,000 port security workers could be hired for four years. Probably many more than needed, as $11 billion is twice the amount the Coast Guard estimates is needed to bring all of the nation’s ports into compliance with new security laws. But an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

And will all this money help? Attacks on coalition forces are nearly five times what they were a year ago. The number of insurgents, according to the Brookings Institution’s “Iraq Index,” is at least three times what it was a year ago. A stable Iraq ready for transition to democracy is many more dollars and lives away.

More dollars may do little to make up for this war’s poor planning. The Iraq War has lasted for two years so far and our soldiers still report armor and equipment shortages. These shortfalls reflect the Bush administration’s earlier thinking that the war would be a “cakewalk.”

The reality is that instead many of our troops are required to use unarmored Humvees — while they are under fire — that are not intended for high-threat situations.

The unrealistic planning for this war is also reflected in White House claims about the cost to taxpayers. Originally, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget stated that the war would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 billion to $60 billion. No supporting figures were provided for this gross underestimate. When the administration’s former economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, estimated that the cost could reach $200 billion, he and his numbers were summarily dismissed.

The new spending bill will bring the tab so far to more than $200 billion.

President Bush’s pending budget proposal would cut domestic discretionary spending by $19 billion, not including homeland security. It would cut discretionary grants to state and local governments in Florida by a half billion dollars. That’s small change compared to Florida’s financial commitment to the war, yet these grants pay for important investments in infrastructure, the workforce and the environment.

One of the consequences of this war is to cut investment in our future. It’s time to start thinking of how to shut down this failed adventure.