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September 16, 2003

War and Red Ink


by Rep. Ron Paul

The president plans to request another $87 billion from Congress to fund operations in Iraq, a number that not surprisingly is much higher than originally called for by the administration. It's not surprising because everything government does costs more than originally expected, but it's important to note that some in the administration who warned about the true financial costs of an Iraq war were forced to leave.

Even the White House concedes this spending will swell the single-year budget deficit to a record $525 billion. This is money the Treasury simply does not have, which means it must be borrowed, printed, or raised through taxes. None of these options are good for the American economy. It is especially sobering to consider just how much we eventually might spend in Iraq given our open-ended mission to rebuild it. A decade in Iraq easily could cost American taxpayers one trillion dollars and cause endless budget deficits.

The question we might ask ourselves is this: What if our efforts to rebuild Iraq and install a democratic government do not work? Are we prepared to spend less on domestic programs like Social Security, welfare, and education? Are we prepared to raise taxes? Can we continue to borrow money abroad? Of course Americans are always prepared to make hard choices and sacrifice for causes in which they truly believe, but the stark economic realities of occupying Iraq have not been fairly presented.

Remember, the American people first were told they must pay to invade Iraq; now they are told they must pay to rebuild it. Those who complain risk being called unpatriotic or seen as not supporting the troops. But it's not unpatriotic to ask how much Iraq is worth to us, and whether rebuilding it is more important than countless domestic priorities. "Whatever It Takes" is an easy mantra for politicians, but you will pay the bills long after the current administration is gone.

We can never hope to impose western, American-style democracy upon a nation that has been rooted in Islam for more than a thousand years. No matter what we say or do, millions of Iraqis and Muslims believe Iraq has simply been invaded by the Christian west. It makes no difference whether American, European, or UN military forces are involved; all are viewed as outsiders seeking to colonize and rule Iraq according to western values. We cannot expect to overcome their resistance and bitterness quickly or easily, and, if we truly intend to stay the course until democracy flourishes in Iraq, we better be prepared to stay quite a long time.

For many in Washington it simply does not matter whether the cause is Iraq, the war on terror, or any other perceived crisis. Any justification to expand the state is welcomed by politicians, lobbyists, and special interests alike. Before we spend a borrowed fortune in Iraq, we might remember the words of General Douglas MacArthur:

"The powers in charge keep us in a perpetual state of fear, keep us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real."


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    Ron Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President.

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