September 29, 2003

THE COSTS OF WAR
Pay up!
by Justin Raimondo

I review most of the major opinion pieces that appear on this website, and, as you might imagine, I read a lot of news stories every day of the week. The process can become somewhat tedious, and it takes a lot to get my attention. But my blood ran cold as I read this jaw-dropper in the transcript of Senator Robert Byrd's remarks at the opening of the Senate Appropriations Committee hearings on Iraq's reconstruction:

"Last Wednesday, I along with Representatives David Obey and Martin Sabo offered an amendment to the homeland security appropriations conference report that would have provided $125 million to hire 1,300 customs inspectors on America's borders. That amendment was rejected as too expensive. Yet, on the exact same day, the President sent Congress this emergency request for $150 million for 5,350 border inspections personnel including 2,500 customs inspectors – in Iraq."

A chill went up my spine, as I wondered: How is this possible?

Every day we hear this administration invoke the specter of another 9/11. That is the ultimate justification for invading and occupying Iraq, for Patriot Acts I and II, for the immoral and unprecedented doctrine of "preemption." It is the entire basis of our post-9/11 Middle East policy: we're going to "drain the swamp," they say, and establish democracy throughout the Middle East. This will supposedly make Americans safer at home.

But, as Senator Byrd makes all too clear, American security is their last concern. It isn't America's borders they're worried about: it's Iraq's. As Jonathan Weisman noted in the Washington Post the other day, the President's $87 billion budget request for Iraq is more than double the homeland security budget.

Not that doubling the homeland security budget is the answer, but the point is that we can see, in the details of the President's $87 billion request, what the War Party really cares about. To heck with the homeland. America last Iraq first. The Washington Post reports:

"Those details include $100 million to build seven planned communities with a total of 3,258 houses, plus roads, an elementary school, two high schools, a clinic, a place of worship and a market for each; $10 million to finance 100 prison-building experts for six months, at $100,000 an expert; 40 garbage trucks at $50,000 each; $900 million to import petroleum products such as kerosene and diesel to a country with the world's second-largest oil reserves; and $20 million for a four-week business course, at $10,000 per student."

"We're not talking sanity here," says Jim Dyer, Republican staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. "The world's second-largest oil country is importing oil, and a country full of concrete is importing concrete."

We haven't been talking sanity in Washington since the drive to war began. All we've heard are lies, and more lies: about the reasons for this war, about alleged "weapons of mass destruction," about Iraq's supposed links to Al Qaeda, – and also about the costs of this war, which Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz adamantly refused to discuss in advance.

As Maureen Dowd puts it in Sunday's New York Times:

"$100 million to hide the families of 100 Iraqis in the witness protection program, $19 million for post office Wi-Fi, $50 million for traffic cops and $9 million for ZIP codes. At these prices, the Baghdad ZIP better be 90210."

$87 billion for the defense of Iraq, the de facto fifty-first American state, and a relative pittance for homeland defense. There is something very wrong – almost sinister – about these kinds of priorities.

Priorities – that's what life is all about. So, what are your priorities? Let me guess: Family, friends, financial security the personal values that make life worth living. But they're threatened, now, by a clique of war-crazed zealots who clearly don't care about your security, or the national security of the United States.

The only defense we have against this ruthless cabal is information: before we can even think about stopping them, we have to know what they're up to, who's pushing their agenda, how they plan to accomplish their ends, and when and where they intend to strike next.

That's where Antiwar.com comes into the equation.

Since 1996, we've been fighting the War Party. Back when all the liberals were cheering Clinton's war in Kosovo, we stood up and exposed the lies, the propaganda methods, the insanity. Long before 9/11, we warned that war was imminent in the Middle East. Long before anyone knew who and what a "neocon" is, we were pointing to their pernicious influence as the catalyst for war.

With 30,000-plus unique visitors every day, over a third of them from outside the U.S., we have grown into a major international voice but we're not growing fast enough to keep up with the War Party. How could we? They have multi-millions in resources.

Sheesh, make that multi-billions, since they have access to the U.S. Treasury.

I was doing research for a column the other day, checking out the income streams of various pro-war thinktanks, and the pattern was always the same: huge contributions from a very small group of people. Lots of investment bankers, many with foreign connections.

Contemplating these enormous sums gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Dear God, I thought, just look at what we're up against!

It isn't surprising that the pattern of contributions to Antiwar.com is the complete opposite of the War Party's: we get large numbers of modest contributions from a great many people. Last time around, we garnered 1,030 contributions adding up to some $32,000, just over the $30,000 per quarter we need to cover our current operating costs.

Our biggest single donation was $1,200. It's a far cry from the whopping $100,000 donated to one of the most virulently pro-war thinktanks in Washington, D.C., by a prominent investment banker [PDF file], and owner of a major Israeli bank, who made his fortune by cashing-in bigtime on the savings-and-loan disaster.

And that wasn't even their biggest single donation for fiscal year 2002! This guy, this guy, and this guy, with $250,000 each, were tied for first place.

Yes, we're outgunned but, you know what? We're going to win. Not that it's foreordained, or anything like that, but, you see, we don't need the multi-billion dollar budgets that grease the wheels of the War Party's propaganda machine.

In my more optimistic moments, I like to think that they are the ones fighting an uphill battle, because we're defending the traditional American values of peace, non-interventionism, and mind-your-own-business-ism.

They, on the other hand, are pushing an alien agenda: alien to America, and alien to ordinary human beings. They need multi-billions to push their agenda of preemptive homicide because bloodlust doesn't ordinarily motivate most of us outside prison, or a loony bin.

We can make do with less but not, I thought, looking at the numbers on the Form 990s of the big pro-war thinktanks, that much less!

Antiwar.com is free to anyone who wants to use it. But nothing is free in this life.

We are entirely dependent on the generosity of our readers. Every year about this time we throw ourselves on their mercy. Every year, we remind them that they get real service, here, on a daily basis. If it's happening, and it impacts on the question of war and peace, Antiwar.com is the place to go not only for the news, but for a complete analysis. Whether coming from the right, or the left, or some other place, Antiwar.com provides a forum for many different voices raised against the rise of empire.

Yes, we have our own views, and these are regularly expressed right here in this space. They are also frankly expressed in our choice of news items and headlines, in the placement of stories, and we don't make any bones about it. But we allow for a wide variety of viewpoints within this context: we aren't pushing a "party line." In his infamous screed against antiwar conservatives and libertarians, the evil David Frum complained:

"The websites of the antiwar conservatives approvingly cite and link to the writings of John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Ted Rall, Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn, and other anti-Americans of the far Left."

You betcha! And we're proud of it. We're happy to leave the purges, and the party-lining, to Commissar Frum and his fellow neocons. Antiwar.com is all about building a broad, all-inclusive single issue movement against the U.S. occupation of Iraq and all the future wars of Norman Podhoretz's imagination.

A tiny staff manages to somehow! update the site constantly, edit and post an array of regular columnists – and keep Antiwar.com in the top tier of news-&-opinion websites, overtaking and consistently outstripping our rivals at every turn. (Hey, and look what all that money bought the War Party. What a laugh!)

But, hey, we're getting pretty low on cash, these days, and it's way past time for a Pledge Week. Yes, that obnoxious intrusion is going to be featured on our front page all week, and although the other two thirds of our staff doesn't particularly look forward to this annual event, I really don't mind. After all, it gives me a chance to tout our accomplishments.

One good example, and my own favorite, is that we were talking about the neocons long before anyone paid them much attention: the "neocon" meme is our baby.

As the cry goes up, asking "who lied us into war?", the answer is becoming apparent to large numbers of people outside the Washington Beltway. The war is more unpopular with each passing week, and the neocons are desperately trying to put the skids on by targeting the media: why don't they report the "good news," they whine.

Their cause is sinking in the Iraq-mire, along with their dreams of empire, and it's fun to watch them flail about, trying to save themselves. Already the cry has gone up for Rumsfeld's resignation, also Wolfie's and that will mean cleansing the Augean Stables of the government's foreign policy apparatus, getting rid off the professional liars, and dealers in forgeries, who lured a nation and its hapless President into the Iraqi quicksands.

Now is the crucial moment, the day the tide might well turn no time to hold our fire. Or go out of business.

But that is exactly what will happen if you our faithful, informed, and very interactive readers, from all over the world don't respond to my plea. I don't mind pleading, because the pride I feel in what we have accomplished more than makes up for my beggarly status. I don't mind asking you to dig deep in your pockets, and come up with some cash because I know that we have earned it.

To our American readers:

What it comes down to, in the end, is this: would you rather give your money to Antiwar.com or in the form of taxes to the U.S. war machine? Do you want to subsidize the occupation of Iraq and, perhaps, more than just Iraq or would you rather help Antiwar.com cover its modest costs?

Your contribution to Antiwar.com is 100 percent tax-deductible.

Why send your hard-earned money to Washington, D.C., where they'll spend it on who knows what new engine of mass destruction, when you can send it, instead, to Antiwar.com, the cyber-center of the peace movement?

Go here to donate online.

Or send your tax-deductible contribution via snail mail to:

Antiwar.com
520 S. Murphy Ave. #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

– Justin Raimondo

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Most recent column by Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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