The war that’s ended twice is still going on, much to the delight of military contractors.

The news this morning that U.S. military casualties in Iraq are at their highest since 2008 must have surprised many people who thought the war ended last August.  And those Rip van Winkles among us who just woke up after falling asleep when Bush II stood on an aircraft carrier and declared the war over in 2003 must be completely disoriented.

The death count among our 50,000 troops in Afghanistan in June has been 15 dead, 14 in hostilities.  There has been no report if there have been any deaths among the 100,000 contractors who work for private profit-making companies still performing military services in Iraq.  In the old days, we called them mercenaries.

Last August, President Obama declared that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq would end that month.  But now there’s combat after the end of combat.  Maybe what Obama meant to say was that our forces would cease to attack in Iraq, but only fight back when attacked. 

American presidents have declared the Iraqi War over twice now, once by Obama last August and once by Bush in 2003.  And yet it goes on, as do the wars it has spawned in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Both presidents used overly fine definitions of war’s end to make their case: Obama defined war’s end as the end of a narrow understanding of combat; Bush defined it as the end of major hostilities.  But the combat and the hostilities continue.

These guys went to Harvard and Yale, and at least one was not a legacy (who, as research has shown, receive a much bigger break in getting into colleges than athletes or minorities).  I guess that along the way Bush and Obama never learned that the end of a foreign war either means a country takes all its troops out or that it crushes all but the faintest wisp of an opposition.

Meanwhile, the cost of all these wars has now passed $2.3 trillion, according to a report just released by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.  The Institute estimates that the final cost will be $4.4 trillion by the time we’ve provided care to all the vets whose bodies and minds the war destroyed.  That’s more than $100,000 per U.S. citizen.  That money would go a long way in fixing our roads and bridges, investing in alternative energy and mass transit, educating our youths and helping our aged and poor.  Instead a large part of it is lining the pockets of the owners and operators of the private companies that now perform military tasks that our armed forces once did for themselves.

There was never a reason to be in Iraq and the reason to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan ended when we captured (and then illegally assassinated) Osama bin Laden.  It’s time to start using the standard definition of war’s end and pull all the troops out.  I’m not a military expert, but I don’t see why it has to take more than six months or so to get everyone home.  And by everyone, I mean troops and mercenaries.

Let’s just admit we made a big mistake and leave. 


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