The Costs of War: Speech from WSU-YDS President

Speech given by Marco Fernandez, President of Wichita State University YDS and Army Veteran, at a 5th anniversary anti-war rally on March 19th in Wichita, Kansas.

"When the Iraq War started many of us accepted the idea of a pre-emptive strike based on the notion that there were in fact weapons of mass destruction located and being hidden in Iraq. We could all agree based solely on this information that it was a good cause; it seemed to be just the altruistic endeavor we needed to exact revenge for what happened on September the eleventh. What was happening behind the scenes though was anything but altruistic.

So why was this war started? Was it for oil? Well if it were, gas certainly wouldn't cost upwards of $4 a gallon. And why did it take so long? There were some very real changes taking place in the military-industrial complex behind closed doors. In 2006, during the mid-term elections, Donald Rumsfeld resigned from the office of Defense Secretary. When that happened, Bush commented not on the war in Iraq as being his greatest accomplishment, but the reforms he'd made in the military.

The reforms facilitated by this new war on terror were not just in the military either. The reforms that took place privatized industries all over the country, eliminating hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs and replacing them with corporate contracts in industries like: technology, media, communications, incarcerations, engineering, education, and healthcare. What that means is that billions of dollars that were being spent on publicly approved objectives, by people with publicly held jobs, are now being slowly funneled up the corporate chain of command into the pockets of a burgeoning power elite.

This means that out of the hundreds of billions of dollars that are being spent on the war, only a fraction of that money is used for the execution of the war itself; the rest is being used to line the pockets of CEOs like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The contractors fighting in the war right now are not responsible for upholding the Constitution. They are not fighting under the same banner as our soldiers who actually give their lives in the defense of freedom.

In the 18th century, this privatization would have been considered criminal treason.

The heart-breaking part of this revelation to me is not just that it has been allowed to take place, but that it has taken place on such a large scale. The example that I gave is not the only one either, but one in a long list of political figureheads that own companies capitalizing on imminent disasters and a wrongly manufactured war. To list them all would take longer than the time I'm allotted so I'll focus on what this new infrastructure accomplishes- and that is to elevate individuals to seats of power long enough to get information on what types of businesses could profit from government contracts to fight this war on terror. To give you an idea of the types of businesses, I offer two examples:

Good Harbor Consulting: a company specializing in homeland security and counter terrorism, which is chaired by Richard Clarke, who at one time was Clinton's, and Bush's, counter-terrorism czar.


New Bridge Strategies: a company that promises to bridge the lucrative world of government contracts and investment opportunities in Iraq, which was a company started by Joe Allbaugh who was the head of FEMA on Sept. 11th.

The greatest negative impact this has had on Americans is the billions of dollars gained from cutting back funding on everything else, from healthcare to education, these dollars are being used - not to pay our troops or to fund actual public positions, but to make former public servants rich, while the hundreds of thousands of people that they swore to serve are slowly dying because they can't afford healthcare and our youth grow less apt and less knowledgeable because No Child Left Behind saves a few bucks that could otherwise go to the pockets of these flagrant and disgusting opportunists.

Another disturbing effect of this privatized military is the ability to hide figures. This is accomplished by these corporations simply not telling the public exactly the things we have a right to know. The fact that these corporations are privately owned, means that they are not accountable to the same regulations as the public military. They simply don't have to tell us how many of their employees die in any given battle, on any given day. They don't have to tell us how high their profits are from this war, so they don't. I want to know.

I want to know how much is being kept in the pockets of these war profiteers who hold positions that should be held by military officials. I want to know where the money is that should go to our children's education, and to caring for our sick and, God damn it, to our wounded heroes dying in hospitals.

So these are the costs of war on this side of the ocean. Half the world away, the war is taking a very different toll. In America we worry about the accumulative war bill of approximately one trillion dollars and the deaths of 4,000 soldiers. Iraqis worry not only about whether or not they can afford what little food there is to buy, but also the approximately 700,000 dead civilians… mothers and fathers, sons and daughters that no longer have their lives. And that number represents deaths caused by war alone. Before this war, the sanctions that were enforced on Iraq killed many more. 1.2 million people as a direct result of medical shortages. In 1996 alone, 4,500 children under the age of 5 died each month, according to UNICEF.

And this was only the result of sanctions held against Iraq in the nineties, its ten years later now and we've been at war for 5 years in Iraq and 7 in Afghanistan and the political, corporate elite don't show signs of slowing down under the current regime of power. But change is on the horizon with the election of a new president comes the hope that we can put a stop to this needless war. And the one thing that Americans can do well is that when there is a cause good enough we can set aside our differences of race, and we can set aside our differences of creed, for we as people recognize that these matters are trivial.

We can rise above this and with one voice be heard!”

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