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By Staff | Dec 11, 2009

I’ve always believed that if a war was worth fighting, it was worth paying for. During World War II, Americans financed that war by buying war bonds and sacrificed on the home front to support the troops and their mission.

Britain borrowed a considerable sum of the money from the U.S. and one post-war consequence was the replacement of the British pound with the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency.

George W. essentially borrowed the cost of the Iraq War from China and foreign creditors, booked much of the cost off budget to cover up inflating the official deficit and never asked the American people for anything, but to go out and shop, sustaining what was unsustainable consumption, portrayed as a patriotic act.

Americans were encouraged to save nothing, borrow heavily and don’t worry about the cost of the wars as deficits had no real consequence. Americans contribute to the war effort by expressing support for the troops on magnetic ribbons on vehicles. That’s nice but not very substantive.

I have always felt that this was very wrong, making the country vulnerable on several levels. I always felt that the Bush Administration had little faith in the American people committing to a war and a mission, so crafted its policies to avoid uncomfortableness that might test Americans’ resolve.

The Bush Administration wanted Americans to support their war policies but worked to insulate the American people so that they did not “feel” that they were at war. They gave them tax cuts even while military expenditures soared. The theory is that we could do this because the country is invulnerable, able to do anything without consequence.

Donald Rumsfeld’s incompetent execution of the Iraq war and occupation and subsequent negligence in Afghanistan placed an enormous burden upon the Treasury along with the loss of American lives. Shallow analysis, poor planning and no exit strategy plagued the entire “figure it out as we go” Bush war effort. I saw recent criticism of the work being put into developing strategy for the Afghan war by the Obama Administration as amazingly ironic coming from the very people who epitomized strategic mismanagement when in charge. The irony is that they still profess to know it all today when they have proved beyond any doubt that they know virtually nothing.

They are sure that President Obama is going to screw it up, but how could he top what they have done? Criticized for acting slowly? Yeah, it takes time to figure out how to fix the mess handed him. The critics have no credibility. Remember when Donald Rumsfeld was told that he needed more troops to secure Iraq, he got rid of the general who told him what he didn’t want to hear. Replacing Rumsfeld with Gates was a God-send. Had a real process been implemented before attacking Iraq, as has been done to formulate a new Afghan strategy, I believe the plan, execution and outcome of both wars would have been very different. At least this time the conclusion reached came together after thoughtful research, input and analysis. This is a change. We’ll get to see if a different result is produced.

As to the cost of the wars, it is still being borrowed. Congressman David Obey wants to pay for the war with a 5% surtax on high income Americans. There are at least two things wrong with that. Obey opposes the war so cynically believes that if Americans have to directly pay for it, opposition for the war will explode. In other words, he and George W. thought alike. Both think very little of Americans’ resolve or commitment to do what’s right if it costs them something. Both were looking to manipulate public opinion to seek their differing objectives.

I think that if the country and therefore, the American people, go to war that the American people ought to pay directly for it. I think the cost ought to be put on the books in bold print. I don’t think we should borrow for it from the Chinese or anybody else. I think every American adult ought to have to cough up whatever it takes so the cost of the war is transparent, not buried in accounting deceptions to be paid for by our grandchildren. This war isn’t being fought just for wealthy Americans. No group of taxpayers should be singled out to shoulder the financial burden as all Americans need to bear equal responsibility.

China may be our friend today but a couple of wars ago the Chinese were our enemies in Korea and more recently indirectly supported our enemy in Vietnam. It’s too soon in terms of history to be so financially dependent upon them today. I’d allow war bonds to be sold but only to private American citizens. China should not be financing our wars.

If the American people cannot be trusted to do the right thing then they should take the responsibility and suffer the consequences for doing the wrong thing. Then they can’t blame their political leaders for the result if unfavorable, even catastrophic. I really doubt the change provided by the Obama Administration will go that far.

If Americans were invoiced for what the government spends, the reality of the cost would come home. The $30 billion increase in the cost of the war in Afghanistan sending 30,000 more troops equates to $261.13 per household (114.8 mil households) annually. That’s not the cost of the war, just the increase asked for. I think we should all pay cash as Americans. I don’t think you should get one of those magnetic signs expressing support for the troops to put on your vehicle until your check clears.

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