Only in America would citizens and politicians be ardently debating the value of extending healthcare to all of its citizens, but say not a word about the cost of the wars being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With monetary costs that are rising daily, not to mention the human costs of over 4,000 Americans killed, the U.S. to date has spent nearly $920 billion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Nearly $700 billion has been spent in Iraq alone. Currently, there’s a $130 billion request in Congress for additional war funds for fiscal year 2010.  That would bring the total to over $1 trillion.

Such a huge expenditure in these recessionary times begs comparison to see how that money could be spent other than war. It could, for example, easily pay the projected 10-year healthcare reform cost of $829 billion, based on the bill in the Senate Finance Committee.

In my home state of Minnesota alone, taxpayers have spent $22 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. That same amount of cash could  provide healthcare for one year to more than 6 million people. It could provide 25 million homes with renewable electricity for a year. Or it could fund 350,000 music and art teachers for one year.

The war in Iraq is supposedly de-escalating, with U.S. withdrawal slated for 2011. The war in Afghanistan is escalating, with more troops being requested and the president considering the request. Afghanistan was supposed to be a fight against terrorism. But it’s starting to seem more like a doomed exercise in nation building, which to be successful would require many more dollars and troops.

In these worst economic times since the Great Depression, America has to decide which citizens are more important to spend its resources on—its own or those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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