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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Approaching Five Years in Iraq, 4,000th U.S. Fatality



“I think [the war will] go relatively quickly. . . . Weeks rather than months.” —Vice President Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003, on Face the Nation

“. . . could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” —Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Feb. 7, 2003, Aviano Air Base, Italy


The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

We don’t know how this will play out, but we can be sure that while the Clinton and Obama campaigns sharpen their knives against each other, American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will keep on killing and being killed—for what?—and the U.S. will still be borrowing billions monthly for those insatiable wars.

And New Orleanians once able to afford rent or mortgage payments before the federal levees broke will still be homeless, encamped near City Hall and under the Claiborne Street overpass, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will still be late with its plan for Category 5–strength hurricane protection for New Orleans and vicinity.

Five Years Ago We Were Promised “a Cakewalk”

March 19 will mark the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and will roughly coincide with the 4,000th death of an American soldier in that war. What brave soldier will win the distinction of being No. 4,000? As of this writing, the official U.S. troops fatality count is 3,973.

LNW_RaggedFlag3The U.S. is deficit-spending $12 billion per month for this war. John W. McCain with all his vaunted experience actually believes this is a sustainable expenditure. Hillary W. Clinton hammers away at Obama, trying to raise doubts about his ability to answer a telephone at 3:00 a.m., but she won’t account for her vote in October 2002 to authorize the use of military force against Iraq.

If the U.S. can borrow $12 billion a month for the Iraq War—

If the president and Congress can find $720 million a day—

If we can deficit-spend $500,000 a minute on this war—

—then let’s go even deeper into debt so we can also have $12 billion a month’s worth of medicine and schooling and housing. Give us $720 million a day for a serious climate change initiative. We want $500,000 a minute to develop alternative energy sources, hybrid and electric cars, billions for mass transit, restoring the railroads, and shifting from coal to clean, safe, French-style nuclear energy plants. (Coal-burning has got to go: With all its carbon emissions, it’s like a cigarette habit, and it’s killing us.)

While we’re sending our candidates money by credit card, we can also press their campaigns to tell us specifically what they’re planning to do to reinvest in America, in schools and health and rebuilding infrastructure and storm protection and training for emergency preparedness. What are their plans for housing displaced people, and how will they help people in disaster-stricken cities to afford rents, or help country people rebuild their homes? Keep pressure on the news media, too, to focus more on issues than on the horse race. It’s a constant struggle to keep them tuned in to what matters.

It is up to Us the People to keep the pressure on Congress and the White House—to the extent that they are still functioning as governing institutions—to demand an end to war and a redirection of our tax dollars to uses that actually benefit us taxpayers. The federal government will ignore these questions as long as it can. If anything positive is to happen, it will only be because we keep organizing and pressing Congress and the White House by phone and by fax, no matter who’s in office or which party’s dominant, not letting them forget how and where we want our tax dollars spent. Otherwise, how soon they forget.


Frayed flag photograph: “Bushwick, Brooklyn, 2002,” by Geneviève Hafner


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