[Marxism] War costs - latest from the UK

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Fri Nov 28 08:57:11 MST 2003

Al Jazeera reports (28 November 2003) that the invasion and occupation of
Iraq have cost Britain more than two billion pounds ($3.4 billion). In
March, UK chancellor Gordon Brown earmarked £1.75 billion for the war, and
two years of war is estimated to cost British taxpayers up £3.6 billion.
"Quoting the Treasury, the Financial Times on Friday reported that the cost
of fighting in Iraq was 850 million pounds ($1500 million) in the year to
the end of March, shortly after the US-led invasion to topple former Iraqi
president Saddam Hussein began. A further 1.23 billion pounds ($2.10
billion) has been spent in the current financial year, the newspaper
reported. According to The Financial Times the three billion pounds ($ 5.2
billion) set aside to cover the costs of fighting Iraq will, at this rate,
run out in the first half of 2004. It has been estimated that Britain's
continuing peace-keeping presence in Iraq is costing between 100 million and
200 million pounds a month ($172 million and $343 million), it said. Britain
has about 10,000 troops in Iraq, most of them in the south of the country.

Suppose reformists had proposed, subsequent to the first Gulf War, something
along the lines of "we impose a weapons embargo in exchange for at least a
billion dollars earmarked for specific development projects in Iraq to build
up a wellfunctioning civil society, with the aim of showing the benefits of
Western innovations, demonstrating the effectiveness of a non-violent
approach to modernisation, and reducing the threat of military conflicts
beyond political conflict." Such an idea would have been dismissed as
ludicrous, from the point of view of the shortsighted logic of capitalist
business or religious fanatics, yet, evaluated over a twenty year period,
the benefits would have been fantastically greater, and the expenses
incurred meantime gigantically less. If we are cynical, we could say that if
profitability in producing consumer goods and producers goods stagnates,
wars provides a new source of profitability. Every economic crisis in
capitalist society is always supposed to be the last one; every war is
supposed to be the last one; but the very idea, that this could be a
system-immanent characteristic of world capitalism, such that there was
hardly a year in the 20th century without a war or economic crisis occurring
somewhere, is never admitted. The role of the weapons industry (which could
easily be producing something more useful) cannot be ignored in the the
equation of modern geopolitics.

For me, the ultimate grisly hypocrisy of the conflict in Iraq is in the fact
that the US Government helped Saddam Hussein to power, supported him
militarily and financially, did not depose him when they could, then cause
the death of - directly or indirectly - one and half million people or
more... then in a somersault of logic, blames all on an "evil dictator".
What we ought to say here is that the theoretical suppositions behind this
policy are evil. These evil theories also mean that within the USA, a
serious inquiry into the phenomena of imperialism is resisted, even although
there are currently about 19 million war living veterans in the USA itself
(that's about one in 15 inhabitants in the USA), for whom around 1,500
funerals occur every day. The mind boggles at such profound
problem-blindness. If we are to talk meaningfully about a "culture of life"
(Bush), we ought to inquire scientifically at least into the real
presuppositions of such a culture.


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