Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Taking Bush and Blair seriously

Writing in the Guardian, George Monbiot performs the usual exercise of comparing America and Britain's contributions to helping victims of the tsunami with the costs of murdering people in Iraq. But he does it with an unusual twist: he takes them seriously for an instant and accepts (for the sake of argument)

...that the invasion and occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with power, domestic politics or oil, but were, in fact, components of a monumental aid programme. And let us, with reckless generosity, assume that more people in Iraq have gained as a result of this aid programme than lost.

To justify the war, even under these wildly unsafe assumptions, George Bush and Tony Blair would have to show that the money they spent was a cost-efficient means of relieving human suffering. As it was sufficient to have made a measurable improvement in the lives of all the 2.8 billion people living in absolute poverty, and as there are only 25 million people in Iraq, this is simply not possible. Even if you ignore every other issue - such as the trifling matter of mass killing - the opportunity costs of the Iraq war categorise it as a humanitarian disaster.

In other words, such vast sums of money - US$225 million a day for the US, and slightly under a tenth of that for the UK - could have been far better spent elsewhere. Assuming, that is, that Bush and Blair were actually sincere in their claims to have been motivated by humanitarianism - which they were not.