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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

War in Iraq is Indeed a State Issue - by John Nichols

During a Wisconsin Public Radio discussion last week about the impact of the war in Iraq on this year's elections, I was asked by a caller about the governor's race. The caller was almost apologetic, wondering if perhaps the inquiry was appropriate for a discussion of foreign policy.

In fact, it was entirely appropriate, and I was pleased to address the line of "reasoning" that says candidates for state constitutional offices ought not discuss the costly mess in Iraq because debates about military affairs are reserved solely for federal campaigns.

Let's be clear: The war is a state issue.

Continued on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>
The occupation of Iraq, which has taken the lives of dozens of Wisconsinites, which has severely injured hundreds of this state's sons and daughters and which has dispatched Wisconsin National Guard units to the Middle East for excessive stretches of time, is costing Wisconsin a fortune.

While the worst costs of the war are human, the economic impact should never be neglected.

According to the National Priorities Project, the cost of the Iraq war will reach $318 billion by the end of this summer. That breaks down to $2,844 for every American household or $1,075 for every American.

The total cost to Wisconsinites for maintaining George Bush's war will surpass $5 billion next month.

In fact, by the end of September when the gubernatorial campaign will hit its stride Wisconsinites will have paid $5,079,600,000 toward a Bush administration project that is rapidly degenerating into civil war and that has no end in sight.

What could Wisconsin spend more than $5 billion on?

Health care, education, housing, aid to cities and farms, cutting property taxes the list is endless.

Unfortunately, aside from Green Party gubernatorial candidate Nelson Eisman, the contenders for the state's top job are not talking much about the war, or its incredible cost to Wisconsin. Republican Mark Green is a cheerleader for any and every foreign policy blunder the Bush White House makes he even voted to allow the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq. And Gov. Jim Doyle, the Democrat who in the Vietnam era was an anti-war firebrand, has been troublingly vague about this conflict.

It's a far cry from the early 1930s, when a young Republican governor made the case for dramatically increasing state aid to those left unemployed by the Great Depression with impassioned speeches that recalled how the country had barely a decade earlier found billions of dollars to spend on World War I. Phil La Follette told legislators that, if the resources could be found to drag the United States into that senseless European struggle and to enrich the munitions merchants who emptied the federal treasury in the name of "patriotism" then surely it should be possible to pull together the money needed to create a jobs program for Wisconsin.

The genius of Phil La Follette, as Jonathan Kasparek notes in his fine new biography of the man, was that the progressive Republican governor had what Kasparek refers to as a "profound grasp of the meaning of America."

La Follette recognized that the struggle to right the course of Wisconsin could not be unlinked from the struggle to right the course of America.

Surely, that remains as much the case today as it was in the 1930s. And those who seek the governorship this year particularly the incumbent would do well to acknowledge this fact.

Copyright ©2006, Capital Newspapers

War in Iraq is Indeed a State Issue


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