Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Deny, Deny, Deny: Costs of War Edition, Part Three

I have long argued that this government causes itself more problems by hiding information than releasing it.  Today, this describes the government's position on the costs of the Iraq mission.  To be fair, this can be a tough issue as the costs can mount, so initial estimates might look faulty or deceptive.

But what looks more deceptive?  When it is known that the Canadian Forces provided the government with an estimate, which the government then refuses to release.  The US and Australia have been clear with their publics about the expected cost. 

This government fears a repeat of Libya, where the Minister of National Defence guessed that the mission would cost $50 million but cost twice that.  The solution here is do to what the government likes to do--blame shift.  Present the military's estimates as just that--the military's estimates.  If they are too low, they can blame the CF.  But to deny the opposition parties and the public this basic nugget of reality--what we expect to be the daily/weekly/monthly (whatever) costs--is irresponsible.  How is the opposition to hold the government to account when one of the most basic sets of facts are covered in denial sauce?

One caveat about this: the Ottawa Citizen report complains that the estimates that the military usually uses is of the costs above regular usage.  That is, a CF-18 would cost some money to operate whether it is flying over Canada or over Iraq, so they calculate the costs of the mission as being those that are additional.  This is not deceptive, I think, but quite sensible--what is the added cost of this effort?  That is what we need to know--how have costs increased by engaging in this effort--not how much does it cost to have CF-18s and operate them over Iraq.

Anyhow, I am sure the government will stonewall because that is what it is best at and thinks that is the least risky way to proceed.  I am not so sure about that, but I am sure it is a crappy way to run a democracy.

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