Tendentious Antiwar Scholarship

, Michael P. Tremoglie, Leave a comment

The mainstream media is aghast and agog reporting yet another study, from another expert, claiming how wasteful the war in Iraq is, how Bush lied, and how the war is killing the country.

This study is contained in a book titled, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, authored by economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. The authors worked for the Clinton administration. Stiglitz was the former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and Bilmes was also an economic adviser.

Newspapers such as the UK Guardian have prominently reported this book’s conclusions that the “true cost” of the Iraq War is $3 trillion dollars and that the Bush administration deceived the American people about this cost.

Yet, what was not reported, except in a book review by Tunku Varadarajan, in the September 2007 Financial Times, was that the authors are ardent opponents of the Iraq war. Varadarajan quoted the authors saying in their book, “By now it is clear that the US invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake. …we both ardently opposed the war and were against it from the start.”

Indeed, Stiglitz wrote this antiwar screed for Project Syndicate in January 2003, before the war began: [1][1] “…the war costs will be offset by expenditure cuts elsewhere. Investments in education, health, research, and the environment will almost inevitably be crowded out. …Obviously, if this military adventure were in fact necessary to maintain security or to preserve freedom, as its advocates and promoters proclaim—and if it were to prove as successful as its boosters hope—then the cost might still be worth it. But that is another matter… There is also the uncertainty factor. Of course, resolving uncertainty is no reason to invade Iraq prematurely, for the costs of any war are high, and are not to be measured only, or primarily, in economic terms. Innocent lives will be lost—possibly far more than were lost on September 11, 2001 …Whichever way one looks at it, the economic effects of war with Iraq will not be good.”

Given their opposition to the war and doubting its validity even before it began; given that both authors worked for President Clinton, who favored invading Iraq during the 1990’s, yet now finds it more politically advantageous for his wife’s presidential campaign to claim invading Iraq was a mistake; given that Stiglitz supports Barack Obama, who opposes the Iraq war, is it not reasonable to suggest that this study might be biased?

Still, ignoring Stiglitz’s opposition to the war notwithstanding, and the political benefit that would accrue to his chosen presidential candidate, it could very well be that what is stated in the book is true.

The problem with this is that much of the evidence and “facts” that Stiglitz and Bilme offer for are not measurable. They are just assertions. They may be true and then again they may not be.

Simply put, this book is just the opinion of one economist of the cost of a war he deeply resents.

This does not prevent the Associated Press from reporting, “The Iraq and Afghanistan wars will cost approximately $12 billion a month—triple the rate of their earliest years—Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and coauthor Linda J. Bilmes report in a new book….Beyond 2008, working with best case and realistic to moderate scenarios, they project the wars, including long-term U.S. military occupation, will cost between $1.7 trillion and $2.7 trillion by 2017.”

Nor does it prevent the misreporting by other papers that the “Iraq War has cost the United States three trillion dollars.”

Since the Iraq war began the Americans and people all over the world have been fed a steady diet of half-truths by antiwar organizations. These groups have either misrepresented or outright lied about what has happened in Iraq.

Newspapers have reported—drastically distorted and inflated—civilian casualty statistics on the front page. They would later report that these initial reports were untrue on the last page.

The American and the world media prominently reported atrocity stories by American military personnel that were later learned to be false—albeit not so prominently reported.

Ironically, it may be that in their zeal to discredit the American invasion of Iraq they antiwar groups have discredited themselves. By disseminating misinformation they lost their credibility.

Stiglitz and Bilmes antiwar screed is no different than the antiwar propaganda that has preceded it.

Michael P. Tremoglie is the author of the critically acclaimed novel A Sense of Duty available at Barnesandnoble.com.