In 1936, in the midst of a the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a campaign speech in Chautauqua, New York. In his address, Roosevelt famously said: “I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded... I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.”
Almost a century later, the drums of war are beating yet again -- loudly. On Thursday night, the Pentagon announced that the United States killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force that conducts clandestine operations overseas, by drone strike while he was in Baghdad, Iraq.
Iran has vowed revenge. The question now is less whether Iran will retaliate but more when, where, and in what form. President Trump seems to welcome the prospect of war. Over the weekend, the tensions intensified when President Donald Trump tweeted that 52 targets are already lined up to respond to Iranian retaliation. Among those sites, are Iranian cultural heritage sites -- striking them, according to Trump’s own defense secretary, would constitute a war crime.
As we all know -- and dread-- the human cost of war is staggering.
According to data from the Defense Manpower Data Center, as of January 3rd 2020, the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after claimed the lives of more than 7,000 American services members -- of those, 300 from Pennsylvania and more than 120 from New Jersey. Some of the casualties are as young as 18 years old.
In light of such loss, it’s easy to forget how staggering the financial cost of war is. Yet it never seems to be a consideration when weighing the prospect of fighting.
The first response to any proposal to solve big problems like healthcare, poverty, housing, and gun violence is: “How are we going to pay for it?” That question is never posed to those leading us into endless wars.
A Brown University researcher estimates that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was $3.6 trillion from 2001 and through 2016. That’s a burden that Pennsylvania and New Jersey taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay if there is a choice.
According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY), the administration did not inform Congress -- the branch with the constitutional authority to authorize war and the power of the purse -- before the attack was carried out. On Wednesday, almost a full week after the assassination, Trump administration officials are scheduled to brief Senators on the situation behind closed doors. Meanwhile, House Democrats are planned to vote on a War Powers Resolution that would to limit Trump from unilaterally using force against Iran.
At the same 1936 “I hate war” speech, Roosevelt said: “Peace, like charity, begins at home.” Those representing our region in Congress must resist another futile and costly war that sends people from our region into harms way -- and spurs anti-American sentiment in the Middle East. With the past two decades as prologue, if war with Iran is coming, we know how it’s going to end.