lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2011

The Costs of War

Nota: algunas de las columnas que escribo quincenalmente para el periodico El Tiempo de Colombia, son traducidas al inglés y publicadas por WatchingAmer­, un portal de Internet cuyo objetivo es reflejar de la manera más fiel posible, lo que se piensa en otros países acerca de Estados Unidos y de sus políticas. La columna que incluyo a continuación fue publicada en a comienzos de septiembre.

New York.- In one week it will be 10 years since the terror attacks on the twin towers, an event that defined a century and impacted the daily lives of Americans. I remember exactly what I was doing when I first saw the image of those burning buildings. But the moment that stayed recorded in my mind in the days that followed the attack was the speech President George W. Bush gave before Congress. Even though it wasn’t my war, nor was it my country that was attacked, the night of the speech I felt the need to listen to Bush and to applaud inside when he promised, not only in the name of his country but also on behalf of the free world, that he would bring justice. If the Islamic fundamentalists wanted war, that is what they would receive.
A decade later, revengeful euphoria has been replaced by a mix of exhaustion and skepticism. Bush never promised to deliver a quick war. But not even in his worst nightmares could he have imagined to see his country bogged down on so many fronts and without an end in sight. The War on Terror has been the longest and, possibly, the costliest war in American history.
The numbers vary according to the source, but it is believed that the economic cost of the conflict could be between $3 billion and $5 billion. American military spending has doubled in the last 10 years, which, when added to the tax cuts promoted by Bush in the era of the attack, has had disastrous consequences for the government’s economy and for individuals.
Ultimately, the cost of the war has come out of the pockets of households, each one of which, according to the Nobel prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, had to disburse around $17,000.
The human cost is even more difficult to estimate, but equally devastating. The total number of dead soldiers, insurgents and civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan has reached 250,000. If the number of injured is added, the total could reach a million, and the figure would rise to 7 million or 8 million if refugees and internally displaced persons were accounted for.
All life is valuable, and I am not going to make comparisons; however, anywhere you look, the balance is disproportionate with the total number of dead on Sept. 11 — around 3,000 people.
Finally, the war has also had a cost in moral terms, not only because the United States invaded Iraq with the false premise that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, but also because, in the “fog of war,” it has violated the human rights it has always claimed to defend.
The campaign against fundamentalism has not brought the benefits of stability or democracy to the countries where it has been waged. Nor has it served to gain the good faith of sectors of the population in danger of being radicalized.
What is particularly bitter and disappointing is that after having paid such a high price and having inflicted enormous suffering on so many innocents, the life of Americans is more uncertain. The economy is more fragile, security is more precarious, [and] daily routine — in airports, governmental offices, banks — is more bureaucratic and difficult to navigate.
It would be difficult to just blame George Bush and his war-like mentality. But it is fair to say that along with him, there were millions — from inside and outside the United States — who wrapped themselves in the flag of justice and clamored for revenge. As Americans prepare to remember al-Qaida’s bloody attack, these days are also an opportunity to reflect on the bloody consequences.
Translated by Arie Braizblot
Edited by Heidi Kaufmann

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