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Get Out Your Paperclips

The Cost of War

by BEN TRIPP

One more time: a US dollar is about six inches long, which I’m told is slightly high side of average. The moon, that large round thing in the night sky with no advertising on it, is roughly 238,000 miles from the earth, or 1,256,640,000 feet; according to today’s exchange rate, that would be 2,513,280,000 dollars laid end-to-end. Let us be clear about how many dollars that is, because I know you just skipped over the numerals and fully intend to proceed with "a lot" as your benchmark, which won’t work. 2,513,280,000 is just over two-and-a-half billion. A billion (in the US) is a thousand million, or in other words, more than your take-home pay between now and the thirty-third century, not including tips. So if you had enough paperclips, you could make a line of dollars end-to-end that would stretch all the way to the moon (if you had two billion, five hundred and thirteen million, two hundred and eighty thousand dollars). Start on a hill and you’ll have enough change left over to purchase a waffle iron. So you have this number of dollars in your head, right? ‘A lot’ rather understates the case.

Here’s the next important number: the Iraq war costs around $6 billion a month. Let us review. Every month, the United States spends enough money killing Arabs of various kinds so that, if we instead decided to paperclip all those dollars together, we could not only reach the moon, we could come all the way back again with another chain of dollars, and still have enough dollars left over to go all the way around the equator ($262,954,560) 3.8 times, which means if you started in the Los Angeles area and went across the Pacific you would end up broke just shy of your fourth pass across Trenton, New Jersey. That, Madames et Eonsieurs, is a lot of boodle. And that is every month. In one year, the Iraq war would get you a chain of dollars-well, let’s put it this way, there aren’t that many paperclips. The sun is 93 million miles from Earth (that’s a rough number, don’t use this for navigational purposes) or 982,080,000,000 bucks. At least we haven’t reached the sun yet, right, gang? Good news. We haven’t reached the sun. But we have spent enough dollars so far (218,000,000,000 as of this writing) to get us over a fifth of the way there. We left Mars behind ages ago. Mars, god of war. We showed him.

So was it worth the money to wage war on Iraq? Objectively speaking, are the people better off? I suppose so; under Saddam Hussein they lived in terror of his cruel dictatorial whims, whereas now they live in terror of everything else, but cruel dictatorial whims don’t enter into it. I mean unless one were to characterize the American president at this time as a dictator. I wouldn’t dare, myself, lest I be subjected to his cruel whim. There are non-monetizable costs of war, too. A whole lot of people are dead that wouldn’t otherwise be dead, for example. so from that standpoint, maybe not such a good idea. But we’re talking about what matters: money.

Now let’s say we have enough dollars lined up to get nearly a quarter of the way to the sun. Where are all these dollars coming from? You can’t slip that kind of loot out of mom’s purse. These dollars are coming from foreign governments and financial institutions. The USA has borrowed all this money from people that don’t even use dollars at home! How many Chinese yuan does it take to reach the moon? We’re about to find out. Since G. W. Bush took office (and he did take it), his government has borrowed $1.05 trillion. That is to say, over one thousand billion. Remember how many a billion is? $1.05 trillion is more than the total borrowed by every administration between 1776 and 2000 ($1.01 trillion). The mind implodes. Half of this nation’s debt in 224 years, the other half since Junior Bush got the top job. Remember how far away the sun is? We have spent enough dollars to get us all the way to the sun with plenty to spare for sunscreen.

War is expensive. We can’t afford it. How anyone imagines this country can survive at this uniquely Republican rate of spending is beyond me; it won’t be worth living in, before long. Not to worry, though, chums. I have a plan. Save your dollars. Paperclip them together. If we make a chain as far as Tijuana, we can shin our way to freedom.

BEN TRIPP is an independent filmmaker and all-around swine. His book, Square In The Nuts, may be purchased here, with other outlets to follow: http://www.lulu.com/Squareinthenuts. Swag is available as always from http://www.cafeshops/tarantulabros. And Mr. Tripp may be reached at credel@earthlink.net.