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The war is already lost

Spending an additional $190 billion in Iraq this year fighting a war that has already been lost will only waste more American lives and aid the enemy -- as it has already. Bringing the troops home, as we must, won’t be cheap either. There are mountains of equipment to refurbish and thousands upon thousands of veterans with visible and invisible wounds to heal; only a small part of those costs has been paid for so far. Expect the human and materiel repair bill to be more than $30 billion -- just for the first year -- based on the Pentagon’s own estimates for equipment repair and replacement. The costs of helping our veterans haven’t begun to be measured.

As all Iraqis know, the American occupation devastated their country and unleashed murderous forces. Some of the latter will be directed at those Iraqis who are seen as collaborators. We owe any Iraqi friends refuge here. We also owe refuge, here or elsewhere, to the 2 million Iraqis who have already fled their country in fear. An America that turns its back on them is not America. Judging from our experience in rescuing and resettling refugees from the Vietnam War, the cost will be tens of billions of dollars.

With whatever is left over, and it’ll be less than you expect, we would be best advised to aid Muslims throughout the world to win them over to us and away from the fundamentalists: free schooling to replace indoctrination in madrasas, healthcare where there is none and sustenance to end hunger. The sight of an approaching U.S. military helicopter should mean hope and relief -- as it did right after the Asian tsunami -- not death and hatred. This will take whatever is left of the $190 billion, and then plenty more.

Americans used to have the right to think of our country as a beacon of light. We can think that way no more. We have lots of work to do.

Winslow T. Wheeler is the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.


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