Friday, February 29, 2008

The Alternatives to War Funding

Healing the Wounds of War
Alternatives to war funding that can lead to a lasting peace in Iraq

Wars, sanctions and occupation in Iraq have created a humanitarian catastrophe for Iraqis; the lives and livelihoods lost are priceless and irretrievable. And the crisis is spreading; the chaos from the invasion and occupation is no longer contained by Iraq’s borders. Four and a half million people have been forced from their homes, making the war in Iraq the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Almost half of the displaced have fled to Jordan and Syria while 2.5 million Iraqis are displaced within the country. These communities are vulnerable and traumatized by physical and emotional violence.

The human needs emerging from Iraqi displacement will not be met by military surges, spiraling war funding, or continued U.S. occupation. Funding international nongovernmental organizations and providing direct aid to countries hosting Iraqi refugees are the best ways to meet the immediate needs of millions of Iraqis. Meeting these needs is critical to ending the violence and creating the conditions for reconciliation in Iraq. The history of the Middle East shows that there are great consequences for slow or inadequate responses to the needs of refugees.

The first step in healing the wounds of war is to stop the violence. This is best achieved with the complete removal of all U.S. troops. This is what the majority of Iraqis want, this is what the majority of Iraq’s elected officials want, and this is what the majority of Americans want as well. No government in Iraq will be able to gain people’s confidence, or have real sovereignty, if its power depends on foreign military forces. Repair, trust and reconciliation will move forward only when the military occupation ends.

A long-term process of regional diplomacy is needed to undo the damage of this war. The best thing the U.S. can do for Iraq and the world community is to take responsibility for the immense crisis which has resulted from its intervention in Iraq. The U.S. must step back militarily so others with more knowledge and experience in the region can step forward to support Iraqis as they rebuild their country.


One day of the Iraq war could fund a year of peace building

$720 million would be better used to support these United Nations
interagency humanitarian appeals AND the request by the
government of Syria to assist in the care of Iraqi refugees for ONE YEAR.

Protection and Immediate Assistance: $261 Million
The office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is rapidly increasing efforts to help Iraqi refugees and other refugee communities trapped inside Iraq. The initiative covers eight countries affected by the war. It doubles the number of Iraqi refugees in school, provides direct assistance to displaced families, assists in the resettlement of the most vulnerable, and increases emergency stockpiles inside Iraq.

Education for Refugee Youth: $129 Million
"Iraqi children are the most vulnerable among the displaced and are facing an enormous challenge. With the passing of time, the hope for a peaceful childhood, a stable family life and normal education is being swept away for many of them." The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative addresses Iraqi student enrollment in neighboring countries by supplementing teacher training and salaries, and expanding facilities to accommodate the estimated 150,000 school and college-age refugees over the 2007-2008 school year.

Basic and Emergency Healthcare for the Displaced: $85 Million
The World Health Organization (WHO) initiative will expand primary and advanced care, assist in the treatment of chronic diseases, increase support to existing clinics and hospitals, and purchase medicine and emergency medical equipment. It includes the construction of 50 clinics, the treatment of 500 Iraqi cancer patients, and support for specialized amputee clinics.

Food for the most Vulnerable Iraqi Families: $126 Million
The World Food Program (WFP) initiative will assist more than one million displaced Iraqis who are unable to meet their basic food needs. The one-year operation will provide food to 750,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis displaced within the country, and more than 360,000 of the poorest families who have fled to Syria. The project will run until December 2008.

Direct Support to Syria: $119 million
Syria accepted an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees (an amount equal to 10% of their own population) before requiring entry visas beginning in October 2007. It was the last country to effectively close its borders to Iraqis. In addition to support for UN agencies operating in the country, Syria needs additional funds to strengthen its public institutions – including schools, hospitals and basic infrastructure – to accommodate greater demand. In April 2007, at a donor conference called by UNHCR in Geneva, Switzerland, the Syrian Foreign Ministry requested $256 million over two years to mitigate the costs of services being provided to Iraqi refugees. The government estimated the true cost to be $1 billion a year.

Peacebuilding measures

• Stop funding the U.S. military presence in Iraq

• Negotiate a timetable for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces

• Withhold funding allocated for arming Iraq’s sectarian militias and armed forces

• Suspend plans to implement a $60 billion U.S. arms package to the region

The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
By: Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes

One week after President Bush rejected charges that the war in Iraq has hurt the US economy, a new book puts a conservative estimate of the war’s cost at $3 trillion. In their first national broadcast interview upon their book’s publication, Nobel laureate and former chief World Bank economist, Joseph Stiglitz, and co-author Linda Bilmes of Harvard University say the Bush administration has repeatedly low-balled the cost of the war—and even kept a second set of records hidden from the American public.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One Day = $720 Million (How we got the numbers)

The economic cost of the Iraq War is far greater than most people imagine, with more than $1 trillion spent. One trillion dollars equals $720 million spent each day, or $500,000 per minute.

These numbers come from an investigation conducted by the American Friends Service Committee. Our figures are based on the research of Linda Bilmes (Kennedy School of Government professor and Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Peace Prize winning economist).

Bilmes and Stiglitz took the war funding supplemental bills that Congress has passed every six months + estimates for caring for the wounded + 30% of the rise in the Defense Department budget since the war began + replacement of military equipment + increased budget for recruitment + interest on the war debt.

After 4 years of war that came to a little over $1 trillion or $720 million per day. That is about 2.6 times the amount approved through the supplemental. Or put another way, the supplemental is only 40% of what the war really is costing or will cost.

As of January 1, 2008 we figured that the cost of war was $1.256 trillion. That keeps with our $720 million/day. The major costs are the care for the wounded and the interest on the debt. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that at the end of 2006 the interest on the war debt alone was $178 billion.

For the economists in the crowd, another way of talking about it is TCO or Total Cost of Ownership of the Iraq War and occupation. For example, when you purchase a computer, you do not just consider the purchase price (supplemental) but all of the training, software, repairs necessary to use it. The total cost of ownership of the Iraq War is over two and a half times the “purchase price.”

A more detailed accounting of the research is on our web page, as is a short video that looks at how these funds could be better spent.

Facts and Figures From the Cost of War Project

One Day = $720 Million (2-minute Video)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Occupation: Raids, Refugees and US Military Bases

As we approach the five year mark of the invasion and occupation of March 2003, the scale of the crisis in Iraq has been obscured. Here are some resources that shed light on what is really happening. Nir Rosen travels to Iraq to examine the new policy of arming new Iraqi militias to support the additional 30,000 US troops last year.

Patrick Cockburn exposes the myth that US military strength will bring stability to Iraq by detailing the experience of one young man who desperately tries to find safety and hope outside of Iraq’s borders.

Included from our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation is a new map of US military bases in Iraq that asks if US policy is military domination or regional cooperation?

These US military bases that form the backbone of the US military occupation.

The Myth of the Surge (Nir Rosen)
Rolling Stone Magazine, March 2008

Hoping to turn enemies into allies, U.S. forces are arming Iraqis who fought with the insurgents. But it's already starting to backfire. A report from the front lines of the new Iraq

"…Raids by U.S. forces have become part of the daily routine in Iraq, a systematic form of violence imposed on an entire nation. A foreign military occupation is, by its very nature, a terrifying and brutal thing, and even the most innocuous American patrols inevitably involve terrorizing innocent Iraqi civilians. Every man in a market is rounded up and searched at gunpoint. Soldiers, their faces barely visible behind helmets and goggles, burst into a home late at night, rip the place apart looking for weapons, blindfold and handcuff the men as the children look on, whimpering and traumatized. U.S. soldiers are the only law in Iraq, and you are at their whim. Raids like this one are scenes in a long-running drama, and by now everyone knows their part by heart. "I bet there's an Iraqi rap song about being arrested by us," an American soldier jokes to me at one point."

Is the US Really Bringing Stability to Baghdad (Patrick Cockburn)
15 February 2008, The Independent

"…any true assessment of the happiness or misery of Iraqis must use a less crude index than the number of dead and injured. It must ask if people have been driven from their houses, and if they can return. It must say whether they have a job and, if they do not, whether they stand a chance of getting one. It has to explain why so few of the 3.2 million people who are refugees in Syria and Jordan, or inside Iraq, are coming back."

How long will U.S. military bases remain in Iraq?
Friends Committee on National Legislation (25 February 2008)

March 19, 2008 marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. For years, the president has insisted the U.S. has no plan to build permanent military bases in Iraq.

Yet the United States has

• built enormous military bases in Iraq, one of which includes a 15-square-mile mini-city;
• begun negotiating a long-term, South Korea-style agreement with Iraq that would allow for a decades- long military presence;
• declared the U.S. military presence will probably last "through several presidencies"; and
• notified Congress that the Bush Administration will ignore a law approved overwhelmingly by both chambers of Congress that bans the U.S. from building permanent military bases in Iraq.

Military domination or regional cooperation?
Talk of a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq is undermining prospects for a political settlement in Iraq and a regional security accord with Iraq’s neighbors. If the U.S. seeks to dominate the region from bases in Iraq, Iraqi insurgents will see new cause to attack U.S. forces, and neighboring states will see no reason to cooperate with the U.S. to end the violence.

Urge Congress to support legislation that would bar the U.S. from building permanent bases in Iraq and require Congressional approval to maintain a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. Find out more at

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reaching 5 Million--the "planet's worst refugee crisis"

Last week Refugees International reported that almost 5 million Iraqis have been displaced during the US invasion and occupation. That means one in five Iraqis, many of them vulnerable and traumatized by physical and psychological violence. The human needs emerging from this displacement will not be met by military surges, spiraling war funding, or continued US occupation. The first step in healing the wounds of war is to stop the violence.

Michael Schwartz, avoiding numbers, describes the crisis as the "planet's worst refugee crisis":

"A tidal wave of misery is engulfing Iraq -- and it isn't the usual violence that Americans are accustomed to hearing about and tuning out. To be sure, it's rooted in that violence, but this tsunami of misery is social and economic in nature. It dislodges people from their jobs, sweeps them from their homes, tears them from their material possessions, and carries them off from families and communities. It leaves them stranded in hostile towns or foreign countries, with no anchor to resist the moment when the next wave of displacement sweeps over them.

"The victims of this human tsunami are called refugees if they wash ashore outside the country or IDPs ("internally displaced persons") if their landing place is within Iraq's borders. Either way, they are normally left with no permanent housing, no reliable livelihood, no community support, and no government aid. All the normal social props that support human lives are removed, replaced with…nothing."

Read Schwartz's report here >>>

Saturday, February 2, 2008

AFSC to Offer Refugee Workshops to Faith Groups from March 6-10 in DC

Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, comprised of the peace fellowships of many Christian denominations, gathered in Washington in 2007 for a national service for peace. The group has expanded and a larger interfaith coalition, joined by AFSC, will gather in Washington, DC from March 6-10. Several houses of worship, including Washington Friends, will host events, help coordinate interfaith services, and offer nonviolent trainings and regional advocacy meetings. AFSC plans to offer two workshops on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis and offer materials to Quaker Meetings, congregations, and other faith groups on how to support Iraqi refugees being resettled in the United States. If you would like more information on the events visit

The gathering will also be an opportunity for attendees to meet with their members of congress and talk to them about the war. Friends Committee on National Legislation, Christian Peace Witness, Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and AFSC have partnered up to offer a workshop on talking with congress about the war. You can register for the event through CPWI’s website. If you would like to participate in additional lobby sessions offered by EAD, register for their events here.

For more information on supporting Iraqi refugees being resettled in your community, visit