Many commentators have noted the Bush Administration’s apparent stinginess in the wake of the the tsunami by comparing the $35 million in government funds pledged for relief efforts to the estimated $40 million in public and private funds being spent for the upcoming inagural. But what if we compare it to another foreign relief effort; specifically a relief effort initiated and administered by the Bush team?
I’m speaking, of course, of the invasion of Iraq, which, since the WMDs apparently never existed, was a mission to free Iraq’s citizens of a “brutal man”, who vanished “hundreds of thousands of men and women and children” into the sands of Iraq (quotes from the 2004 State of the Union). That’s just about the only time you’ll hear an estimate of the number of Iraqis killed by Saddam from anyone in the administration. The Iran-Iraq war killed an estimated 1.5 million on both sides. The horrible, unarmed “human wave” attacks mounted against the Iraqis were the idea of the Iranians, but Saddam started the war and used poison gas, so let’s drop those at his feet, just to be on the cautious side. Add in Kuwaiti and Iraqi civilian and military casualties, an Israeli civilian killed by a Scud missile, plus coalition force losses during the Gulf War in 1991 — let’s say 200,000 to be on the high side. If you take “hundreds of thousands” to mean a million; add the Iran-Iraq 1.5 million, and the Gulf War casualties, then top it off, you have 3 million dead piled around Saddam’s feet. Compared with the 60,000 reported dead from the tsunami (a figure that’s still rising, of course) and that’s a 50:1 ratio between people Saddam could easily be blamed for killing and those dead from the tsunami. But we’re spending thousands of times more money in Iraq.
Spending on the Iraq war has reached $200 billion and is still rising. That’s about $67,000 for each of Saddam’s dead. The $35 million pledge of aid to the Indian Ocean countries affected by the tsunami comes to $583. We’re spending 115 times more per casualty (death) to do whatever we’re actually doing in Iraq (as well as killing approximately as many people as the tsunami did) than we’re offering for relief to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the other nations affected by the wave.