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From War to Peace: Iraq and the Churches’ Voice: Advocacy and Public Policy

Written by Sandy Sorenson

In 2008, we mark the five-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War.  The terrible human toll in civilian and military causalities, the long-term costs of care for all those who have sustained severe wounds, the displacement of millions of Iraqi citizens continues to mount.  For every number of those killed, wounded or displaced, there is a name and a story.  In many ways, the human toll is simply immeasurable.  Yet numbers do help to tell the story.

Iraq by the Numbers

 $500 billion

Amount spent on the Iraq War as of March 5, 2008
More money is already approved and being spent daily.  If Congress approves additional supplemental appropriations requested by President Bush ($192 billion in FY2008), Congressional Research Service estimates that total war costs will reach about $803 billion.

 $20 billion Amount paid to KBR, a former Haliburton division, to supply the U.S. military in Iraq with food, fuel, housing and other items.
 $3.2 billion

Portion of that $20 billion that Pentagon auditors deem "questionable."
Numbers in no way convey the breadth and depth of the loss and destruction, but nevertheless they point to concrete implications of the current U.S. policy with regard to Iraq and the region.

 28% Percentage of Iraqi children suffering from chronic malnutrition
 70% Percentage of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies
 $720 million 

Cost of one day of the Iraq War ("The Peace Dividend")
If that amount were redirected to vital human services at home, the total expenditure for one day of the war could provide:

423,529 children with health care
95,364 Head Start places for children
6,482 families with homes
1,153,846 children with free school lunches
84 new elementary schools
1,274,336 homes with renewable electricity

While the situation in Iraq and the region is certainly complex and multi-layered, there are some small steps forward that could begin to address the terrible suffering and violence in Iraq.  Such policy steps include:

  • Refugee assistance
    With over 4 million people displaced, Iraq and its neighboring countries are now facing the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. Increased funding for humanitarian aid, refugee assistance and internally displaced persons assistance, resettlement for Iraqis at risk, and economic redevelopment of the country is the best way to provide security and stability of Iraq and the whole region.
    • The Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Security Act would increase assistance and/or funding for international aid organizations and non-governmental organizations working in the region; increase aid for internally displaced persons; provide Special Immigrant Status under the Immigration and Nationality Act for Iraqi nationals who worked for the U.S. government, U.S. companies or NGOS; and help to expedite processing of Iraqi refugees.
  • A federal budget that invests more long-term tools for diplomacy, development and conflict prevention across U.S. government agencies
    Diplomacy is one of the most cost-effective methods to engage global security issues.  It is a "front-end" investment that can prevent more costly military engagement.  The average U.S. embassy is staffed to only 79 percent of its authorized level.  The lack of necessary personnel at USAID is making it increasingly difficult to oversee effective redevelopment projects.
  • An expanded government capacity for civilian-led and implemented foreign assistance and crisis response (e.g. the Civilian Stabilization Initiative)
  • U.S. recommitment to constructive participation in international institutions and partnerships
    • New Diplomatic Offensive for Iraq Act (H.R. 3797)
      This measure would call for renewed diplomatic negotiations in Iraq and the region to move toward greater stabilization
  • No permanent bases in Iraq
    Congress must take action to stop completion of long-term military bases in Iraq.  The perception that the United States intends to permanently occupy Iraq is only fueling the conflict.
    • Protect Our Troops and Constitution Act (H.R. 5626)
      This measure would require the Administration to consult with Congress before entering any long-term security agreement with Iraq
  • Improve and expand health care treatment and access for returning U.S. veterans, particularly treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury 
    • Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2008
    • Veterans' Outreach Improvement Act (to ensure veterans are informed of the full range of benefits available to them)
    • Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (to expand and improve health care services available to women veterans)
    • Veterans Suicide Study Act and legislation building on the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention law to direct the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive suicide prevention program

Sources: Friends Committee on National Legislation, American Friends Service Committee, Women's Action for New Directions


Ms. Sandy Sorenson is the Minister and Team Leader of the United Church of Christ's Washington, DC office of Justice and Witness Ministries.

 



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