April 26, 2004 - Who is paying the price for our continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Who is making the sacrifice? I’m not talking about the dead and wounded. Who is paying the financial cost of these wars? Who is making the financial sacrifices that it takes to fight two wars on the far side of the world.
Twenty-Five percent of the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq are weekend warriors; members of the Reserves and National Guard. They aren’t career soldiers. Before they were mobilized they had jobs or businesses. They made their livings in civilian occupations. Their Guard or Reserve service was something that they gave back to their nation. They left wives and kids at home when they reported for active duty. Many of them, those with small businesses, left employees at home as well. All of them took a big cut in income when they put on their uniforms and reported for duty.
As it has turned out neither Afghanistan nor Iraq have been 90 day wars. The six month deployments that the families planned for and were prepared to cope with have stretched up to two years. Homes are being lost because the family income has been slashed for the weekend warrior’s family. Businesses that they worked for years to build are failing because the key man or woman is overseas.
The Administration that brought us to these wars ignores the cost of fighting them – the direct cost in day to day expenditures; the indirect cost of the depletion of the nation’s armory as arms and equipment are lost or destroyed; and the cost in economic dislocation that flows from the diversion of people and entrepreneurial energies from the nation’s economic engine to the battlefront. A job site catering business in Nashville that is shrunk by one third putting 4 employees out of work may not seem significant but that is just one guardsman’s story. Multiply that impact by the number of weekend warriors deployed to Iraq and the impact is directly felt on Main Street if not on Wall Street.
Even the record breaking deficits proposed in the Administrations budget sent to Congress hide the economic facts of the direct costs of war. The out of pocket costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not included and the Congress is beginning to ask what they will be. The answers have not been forthcoming. The Budget won’t reflect those costs that fall directly on the citizen soldiers and their families. There is no provision to indemnify them for their losses. We ask them to lay their lives on the line for us. We should not be asking them to put their families on the line as well.
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