Here we go again — into yet another war in a tumultuous swath of the world we still don’t comprehend. For a preview of what we’re stepping into in Iraq and Syria, let’s remember Afghanistan.

In the yesteryear of the Cheney-Bush regime, the promise was that our Afghan excursion would promptly dispatch the Taliban, give al-Qaeda the boot, and create a stable democratic government.

the real cost of war

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But it turned into both the longest war in American history and a costly failure on all counts — with more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers killed, nearly 20,000 maimed, and three-quarters of a trillion dollars down the drain. What have we won?

Far from defeated, the Taliban is again on the offensive. Afghanistan’s elections are a farce, government corruption is flagrant and rampant, and the country’s U.S.-built infrastructure is already crumbling. Equally maddening, most of the $100 billion American taxpayers have sent for reconstruction and training is unaccounted for.

The good news is that the Afghan debacle is scheduled to end this year. The bad news is that it won’t.

A contingent of nearly 10,000 U.S. troops will remain in 2015, and we’re likely to keep shelling out endless piles of money to fund that country’s bankrupt government, including at least $4 billion a year for the next three years to sustain the Afghan army and police alone.

So hi-ho, hi-ho — off we go to Syria, Iraq, and beyond for what is already being called “a long war.” The tab just for the direct military cost of this latest misadventure will be as much as $22 billion a year.

How much good could that money do if we invested it here at home?

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

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