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THURSDAY, AUGUST 3, 2006
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EDITORIAL

War, violence in Iraq taking toll on United States' wealth

The Soviet Union crumbled because the Kremlin couldn't afford the arms race with Washington. The Soviets didn't have the American economic engine to sustain the drain on its national economy that its massive standing Red Army and missile production demanded.

Is there a lesson in the Soviets' demise that the U.S. needs to heed in the global war on terrorism, given the record national debt and the alarming condition of the nation's military?

This week, the Senate took what is becoming a routine action when it voted to add $13 billion to the Army and Marine Corps budgets.

Supplemental bills routinely authorize billions more for the war, but a report out this week says that's not nearly enough to sustain the battle.

More than two-thirds of the Army National Guard's 34 brigades are not combat ready and need an additional $21 billion.

Last week House Democrats charged that two-thirds of the Army's brigades also are not combat ready. Lest you think the assertion is mean-spirited politics, the military's top brass issued no denials.

The war thus far has cost an estimated $300 billion to $500 billion. Depending on when the U.S. finally pulls out, the cost may go well over $1 trillion. That's in addition to the nearly 2,600 killed and 17,000 wounded.

Meanwhile, another report from Iraq bemoans all of the international aid and the country's national wealth simply disappearing. "It is a story of mistakes made, plans poorly conceived or overwhelmed by ongoing violence," said Senate Foreign Affairs Chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine.

She also cited "waste, greed, and corruption that drained dollars that should have been used to build schools, improve the electrical grid and repair the oil infrastructure."

The United States must soon decide how much more the nation wants to invest in Iraq and if the country can afford the cost.

Even more alarming than the steady deterioration of Iraq is the fact that the U.S. isn't keeping this nation's Army and National Guard ready to meet any threat.


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