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March 25, 2008

Side effects

side effectsWars have many indirect consequences, and the Iraq War has certainly been a burden to the country waging it. Here’s a look at a few ways this war has impacted America at home. Post Traumatic Stress DisorderAs many as 20 percent of American soldiers returning from Iraq will need professional help coping with post traumatic stress disorder, according to a bipartisan commission on veterans care. PTSD, an anxiety disorder common among soldiers because of prolonged exposure to combat, has in the past been written off as something less damaging. However, soldiers are returning from Iraq with the diagnosis far more frequently than in wars past.Perhaps connected, the suicide rate in the U.S. Army was the highest on record last year. Gas pricesIn March 2003, average gas prices came dangerously close to a record high at $1.72 per gallon. Last week, average prices met a new high of $3.30, while a gallon in Hawaii soared to over $5. That can be attributed, in part, to a reduction in production of Iraqi oil and the general market instability caused by the continued fighting in the Middle East. For comparison’s sake, the year Ronald Reagan entered office, 1981, gas cost $1.38 a gallon. And the near-doubling of prices over the past five years is dramatic in context: From April 1993 to just before the start of the war, prices jumped from $1.06 to $1.63, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration. National debtThe debt in this country has soared under President Bush, and not just because of the Iraq War. Add in the war in Afghanistan, the tax cuts Bush instituted for the wealthy and his administration’s spending increases in other parts of government, and you’re left with unapproachable debt, the centerpiece of which is a war being waged on someone else’s dime — mainly foreign lenders. The national debt as of Tuesday was just over $9 trillion.How much? As of this year’s budget, the total cost of the Iraq War is more than $600 billion, 10 times what the administration told Congress it would cost five years ago. According to a report by Congress’ Joint Economic Committee issued last November, the total cost of the war — including the cost of treating some 30,000 wounded soldiers, domestic economic disruption and so forth — is $1.3 trillion, and it jumps $3 billion more if you add Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a bridge collapsed in Minnesota last year, and in its wake we learned that America is lucky that other public infrastructure — no longer being properly maintained due in part to lack of federal funding — hasn’t shared that fate. Also, healthcare costs for the average American have increased more than 100 percent since President Bush took office, and comprised 16 percent of America’s gross national product last year, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. Approval ratings The people have had enough: Bush’s approval rating was 64 percent a month after Shock and Awe, according to a CBS News poll. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll has the president’s approval rating at 32 percent. And when the Democratic Congress took office last year and failed to end the war, its approval rating dropped below 20 percent. casualty report (as of Tuesday, March 25): United States soldiers killed in Iraq: 4,000 British soldiers killed: 175Other: 133Estimated number of Iraqis killed since fighting began: between 82,000 and 650,000Contact the writer at sgeorge@leoweekly.com