There is only one rock band that I have seen live twice in my life. It was not summer and school was not out and I really think of myself as a nice guy, but, yes, it was Alice Cooper. One of these was the famous green “Billion Dollar Babies” album, which is now beyond 33 (despite the fact it is still 33 rpm) years old. At the time, just graduating from college, a billion dollars seemed astronomical to me. Alice is still performing and selling merchandise, but a billion is no longer a big deal. Consider that a report has just been issued saying that 1.6 trillion dollars will have been spent by the end of next year by our U.S. government on the combined wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Welcome to our nightmare.

As reported in Al-Jazeera,

Kimberly Halkett, Al Jazeera’s Washington correspondent, said: “The report says the wars have so far cost the average American family nearly $21,000.

“The Democrats say that by 2017 that price will rise, costing a family more than $46,000.”

The report’s $3.5 trillion figure is $1.1 trillion higher than a non-partisan estimate by the congressional budget office last month.

The cost of the conflict in Iraq alone accounts for $1.3 trillion of the $3.5 figure, according to the report.

“We simply cannot buy victory in Iraq,” Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic majority leader, said.

Alright, there is probably more than a modicum of politics in these figures, but by any stretch of the imagination the overall costs for the continued U.S. engagement are still astronomical. I am afraid that the debate over numbers at this level misses the point that here is a war that was supposed to be done on the cheap, paid for in large part by the [de]liberated oil of an American-loving democratic Iraq. Oil prices now have us all over a barrel and there is no end in sight for a war we think a surge-charge can pull off. By the billions or over the trillion mark, the price of this war is still obscene. Can you image how that money could have been used for pressing problems here at home and humanitarian needs worldwide? Instead we are seemingly unable to wake out of a bad dream.

Somehow the absurdity of such large numbers leaves me remembering another old Alice song:

Well I’m runnin’ through the world with a gun in my back tryin’ to catch a ride in a cadillac
Thought that I was livin’ but you can’t really tell been tryin’ to get away from that success smell
You know I need a houseboat and I need a plane I need a butler and a trip to Spain
I need everything the world owes me I tell that to myself and I agree
I’m caught in a dream so what you don’t know what I’m goin’ through
I’m right in between so I’ll I’ll just play along with you
Well I’m runnin’ through the world with a gun in my back tryin’ to catch a ride in that cadillac
Thought I was livin’ but you can’t never tell what I thought was heaven turned out to be hell
Whoa whoa when you see me with a smile on my face
Whoa whoa then you’ll know I’m a mental case whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa
I’m caught in a dream so what I don’t know what I’m going through
I’m right in between so I’ll I’ll just play along with you
Whoa whoa ooh ooh ooh aah aah aah aah oo oo oo oo oo oo

Nostradamus, move over. Alice saw it all coming, but we didn’t see the genius in his words until it was too late.

Daniel Martin Varisco