You may have heard that the President called off a military strike against Iran because 150 people would be killed.
Well, I have some numbers for you, Mr. President. And they are more than 150.
31,000 is more than 150. That’s the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan since 2001. 29,900 Afghan civilians wounded is also more than 150.
461,000 is more than 150. That is the number of war-related deaths in Iraq between 2003-2011 in a study released last year. And the Iraq war, in my view, is directly responsible for the mobilization of ISIS as a destabilizing, murderous and brutal force in Iraq, Syria, and the region.
4,424 is 30 times more than 150. That’s the number of American troops killed in Iraq and 32,000 more were wounded in action, not including those wounded by PTSD or PTSD post-deployment suicides. 2371 soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and 20,320 wounded. Also not including PTSD and related suicides.
At 8% of the population, veterans account for 14% of all suicides according to the VA. The VA report also says that since 9/11 “a record number of veterans have been diagnosed with (PTSD), affecting one in five Iraq and Afghan war veterans. There is a clear correlation between the increase in PTSD cases and the suicide epidemic among veterans.”
No one has been a stronger advocate for our veterans than Sen. Jon Tester. I’m sure Senator Tester doesn’t want to increase the number of veterans. I call on the other members of Montana’s congressional delegation to join him.
People need to know the real costs of war. We’ve killed and injured too many Americans in uniform and too many civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq - many, many times more than the regimes we overthrew. And our wars have destabilized, not stabilized the region.
Now John Bolton and the President want to start a war with Iran because Iran may stop complying with an agreement from which we’ve already withdrawn -- an agreement that was stronger and more verifiable than any arms control agreement we ever negotiated and signed with the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter all knew that diplomacy is the best path to achieving our national security goals in the global arena.
Let’s remember that Iran is a sovereign state and doesn’t have to agree to anything. They didn’t have to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty, but they did. And they agreed to even more restrictions because an unprecedented international alliance enacted sanctions strong enough to bring them to the negotiating table. That’s what we sabotaged by withdrawing. I worried at the time it was a calculated prelude to war.
For the record, the Iran agreement did not lift sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism or its violations of human rights. Some restrictions were permanent and others were for 10 and 25 years compared to the US and Soviet agreements that expired every five years.
Diplomacy doesn’t make headlines as often or as dramatically as war does, but it is most definitely better at achieving the outcomes we seek. It doesn’t solve every problem, but wars solve even fewer, and it saves hundreds of thousands of lives lost in unnecessary and counterproductive wars that leave us and others less, not more secure. No war with Iran, Mr. President and Mr. Bolton. A half million people dead because of wars we started in a region that is now more unstable than before is already too many. No more.
Franke Wilmer is a Professor of International Relations and Political Science at MSU-Bozeman. She has written three books and numerous articles on war, political violence, and conflict and has been doing research in Israel and Palestine/West Bank since 2016.