Escalating the War in Afghanistan Is Wrong

President Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan is wrong for many reasons. At its October 15 meeting, the Executive Board of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO adopted a simple statement that sums up many of those reasons: “We need to stop the war in Afghanistan and focus the nation’s attention on the fight for jobs, education, health care and pensions.”

And, as Wisconsin Rep. David Obey says: “There ain’t going to be no money for nothing if we pour it all into Afghanistan.”

My senator, Russ Feingold, correctly objects from a foreign policy and national security point of view: “It’s an expensive gamble to undertake armed nation-building on behalf of a corrupt government of questionable legitimacy.”

It’s wrong because the American people elected Obama, with a mandate-sized majority, to end these wars, reform health care, and ameliorate the effects of the economic depression, and certainly not to escalate the war.

And finally, but absolutely not least, it is wrong because it will lead to many more serious physical and psychological wounds and deaths for Afghan citizens and American soldiers.

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[Jim Cavanaugh is president of the South Central Federation of Labor in Madison, Wisconsin.]

More on the Cost of War

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) is holding its national conference in Chicago this weekend. There, union activists will devise a campaign for educating members about the war in Afghanistan. USLAW writes, "The Iraq and Afghan wars will distract from and overwhelm any possibility of implementing a progressive agenda.”

How will the war be paid for? Rep. Obey has proposed a new 1 percent war tax on most Americans (5 percent for the wealthy). According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. is already spending $3.6 billion a month in Afghanistan. Official estimates of the added cost of Obama’s 30,000 reinforcements range from $15 billion per year to $30 billion—half a million to a million dollars for each soldier.

The war in Afghanistan had cost $171.7 billion by March 2009. A Budgetary Tradeoffs chart shows the cost of the war for each state and what that money could have bought instead. For example, the war has cost Pennsylvanians $6.5 billion, which would have paid for health care for more than 1.6 million people in the state for a year.

It’s also worth noting that to build a school with 12 classrooms in Kabul would cost $128,000. The cost of equipment for one science lab would be $1,500.