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The upside down U.S. flag is an official signal of distress. THE FLAG CODE Title 36, U.S.C., Chapter 10 176. Respect for flag: (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

The Bush Administration was dead wrong about the benefits of going to war and it was dead wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, the United States have wars that are costing more than anyone could have imagined. The wars have ultimately bankrupted the United States.

The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

Even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in US history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion. With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today’s dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to fully comprehend these costs. The price in blood has been paid by the United States military and by hired mercenaries. The costs to society are far larger than the numbers that show up on the government’s budget. Then there are the hidden costs of these wars - the understating of US military casualties. The Defense Department’s casualty statistics focus on casualties that result from hostile (combat) action - as determined by the military. Yet if a soldier is injured or dies in a night-time vehicle accident, this is officially dubbed “non combat related” - even though it may be too unsafe for soldiers to travel during daytime.

In fact, the Pentagon keeps two sets of books. The first is the official casualty list posted on the DOD website. The second, hard-to-find, set of data is available only on a different website and can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. This data shows that the total number of soldiers who have been wounded, injured, or suffered from disease is well over the officially declared number wounded in combat - over 31,902 as of late 2009. The actual number of wounded based on independent reports are estimated to be over 100,000. The number of Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of the US invasion are estimated to be over 1.3 million.

The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.

On the eve of the Iraq war, there were discussions of the likely costs. Larry Lindsey, President Bush’s economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, suggested that they might reach $200 billion. But this estimate was dismissed as “baloney” by then Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, suggested that postwar reconstruction could pay for itself through increased oil revenues. Mitch Daniels, the Office of Management and Budget director, and Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the costs in the range of $50 to $60 billion, a portion of which they believed would be financed by other countries. The tone of the entire administration was cavalier, as if the sums involved were minimal.

From the unhealthy brew of emergency funding, multiple sets of accounting and casualty books, and chronic underestimates of the resources required to prosecute the war, putting a dollar figure onto how much has been spent on these wars is incalculable. According to NPP (National Priorities Project) to date, $1.09 trillion dollars have officially been declared allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The national, state, and local numbers we provide are based on the total approved amounts through the end of Fiscal Year 2010 including the FY10 supplemental. Add the costs of extended heath care for war casualties and the costs for the stay-behind military deployments (military presence kept for decades like that in South Korea) and the cost of these wars quickly adds up to over $3 trillion. A much higher cost than what Secretary Rumsfeld estimated. This represents the cost only to the United States. It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq.

Larry Lindsey, President Bush’s economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, went on to say: “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.” In retrospect, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Lindsey grossly underestimated both the costs of the war itself and the costs to the economy. The United States National Debt is now over $13 trillion. Before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars started the national debt was $5.73 trillion. 41 million US people now rely solely on food stamps to keep them alive. That is more than the entire population of Canada (33 million), who no longer can afford to feed themselves. 25 million of a 138 million workforce are now unemployed. To put the US unemployment numbers into perspective, Canada’s entire workforce is approximately 18 million. These wars have bankrupted the United States.