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Published: Sunday, 3/18/2007

After 4 years, why are we still in Iraq?

"I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that." - Donald Rumsfeld, November, 2002.

As the Iraq war enters its fifth year, our involvement there has now lasted longer than U.S. involvement during all of World War II.

This weekend, thousands of protesters descended on Washington. On Friday, Christian evangelicals marched after a peace service at the Washington National Cathedral. Yesterday, protesters gathered on the National Mall. The crowd there included war supporters, who are now a minority.

Gallup polls reported nearly 75 percent of Americans approved of the war when it began in 2003. Last month, pollsters found that 60 percent of us now oppose it.

President Bush yesterday pointed the finger at congressional Democrats pushing anti-war legislation. Their tactics, he said, were attempts to "micromanage" the military to win domestic political battles - a sterling example of a pot calling a kettle black, given the recklessness with which his administration launched this war.

"There's a lot of money to pay for [the Iraq War] that doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." - Paul Wolfowitz, March, 2003.

But Iraqi oil output has gone down since the start of the war.

And as for Donald Rumsfeld's 2003 projection that the Iraq war would come in under $50 billion, well, he was off by some $450 billion. Now stuck in a war that's upped anti-Americanism and destabilized the Middle East, we've spent in Iraq almost as much as we spent during 12 years in Vietnam, if you factor in inflation.

Worse, we're paying for practically the whole war by taking on massive debt. Worse still? Researchers say we'll be paying long after the troops are home. A recent Harvard study calculated that, by adding to military spending such costs as veterans' medical/disability benefits and the overall economic impact on such things as oil prices, this war's true price tag could easily top $2 trillion.

And of the nation we meant to help? U.S. News last week said inflation in Iraq averages 50 percent, while jobless rates range anywhere from 13 percent to 60 percent. A recent U.S. military survey found that just 16 percent of Baghdad residents said their income meets their basic needs.

"Bring 'em on! We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." - George W. Bush, July, 2003.

The Pentagon said last week that attacks and casualties in the last two months of 2006 were the highest since the war began. By the end of last month, 3,159 Americans were confirmed dead and 23,677 wounded. At least 57,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, although the AP said one controversial estimate puts that number as high as 655,000.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon acknowledged last week that "some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a civil war."

American troops may not be leaving, but Iraqis certainly are. Every month, according to U.S. News, up to 9,000 Iraqis flee their ravaged country.

What reasonable defense is there to prolong this futile war?



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