Raise Your Voice

A post by my wonderful friend Ms M’Liz reminded me of something I have been meaning to post here for a while.

But before I get to that, I had a very interesting statistic brought to my attention last night, which blew me away. Now I will not pretend to know all there is to know about the situation in the Middle East, nor do I have a hard and fast view on it other than I think war is not the answer to a great number of the problems that our global politicians seem to think it is.

So first, in George W. Bush’s State of the Union address this week, while he doesn’t yet claim ‘victory’, he does claim ‘success’:

While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago. (Applause.) When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down.

When we met last year, militia extremists — some armed and trained by Iran — were wreaking havoc in large areas of Iraq. A year later, coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or captured hundreds of militia fighters. And Iraqis of all backgrounds increasingly realize that defeating these militia fighters is critical to the future of their country.

When we met last year, al Qaeda had sanctuaries in many areas of Iraq, and their leaders had just offered American forces safe passage out of the country. Today, it is al Qaeda that is searching for safe passage. They have been driven from many of the strongholds they once held, and over the past year, we’ve captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq, including hundreds of key al Qaeda leaders and operatives.

Last month, Osama bin Laden released a tape in which he railed against Iraqi tribal leaders who have turned on al Qaeda and admitted that coalition forces are growing stronger in Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated. (Applause.)

…there is a lot more in this vein in the transcript of his address, however he is not the only one to herald the war in Iraq a success.

At the same time, on Justin Purnell‘s blog, an article by John Allen Paulos raises some mind blowing statistics regarding the war in Iraq:

The price tag for the Iraq War is now estimated at $700 billion in direct costs and perhaps twice that much when indirect expenditures are included. Cost estimates vary — Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts the total cost at more than $2 trillion — but let’s be conservative and say it’s only $1 trillion (in today’s dollars).

As a number of other commentators have recently written, this number — a 1 followed by 12 zeroes — can be put into perspective in various ways. Given how large the war looms, it doesn’t hurt to repeat this simple exercise with other examples and in other ways.

For example, it would take almost three decades to spend a trillion dollars at $1,000 per second, and if spending at this rate occurred only during business hours, more than 120 years would be required to dispense the sum.

Another time analogy is illuminating. A million seconds takes approximately 11.5 days to tick by, whereas a billion seconds requires about 32 years. Fully 32,000 years need to pass before a trillion seconds elapse.

Of course, some might argue that the $1 trillion expenditure in Iraq has made us both more secure domestically and more respected internationally than ever before. Perhaps as many as a dozen people agree with Cheney’s recent hallucinatory comment that “we’ve had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes” in Iraq.”

At times, it seems that the nightmare and expense of these enormous successes will continue for the next trillion seconds.

John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University, has written such best-sellers as “Innumeracy” and “A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market.” His “Who’s Counting?” column on ABCNEWS.com appears the first weekend of every month.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Now that piece was from February 4, 2007… so what figure does this stand at now?

Anyway, back to what I wanted to post. The above could make ‘doing your part’ seem somewhat inconsequential, but never let it be said that the actions of one man cannot make a difference.

Many people that have embarked on the 101 Things in 1001 Days project with me on January 1 of this year, and most of them have included one or many objectives to help change their world. Some might be on a small scale, their local community, or their neighbourhood, but others have grander plans. In any case, no matter who you are, there is always something you can do to make a difference, even if it’s just to raise awareness.

And with that, I urge you to watch this piece… and then take action.


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