The Washington Post has run an important piece this morning on the rapidly increasing year on year costs of the Iraq War. Rather than becoming less expensive each year, American costs have increased, in constant dollars, each year.
Jonathan Weisman writes:
With the expected passage this spring of the largest emergency spending bill in history, annual war expenditures in Iraq will have nearly doubled since the U.S. invasion, as the military confronts the rapidly escalating cost of repairing, rebuilding and replacing equipment chewed up by three years of combat.
The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.
Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today’s dollars. The invasion’s “shock and awe” of high-tech laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and stealth aircraft has long faded, but the costs of even those early months are just coming into view as the military confronts equipment repair and rebuilding costs it has avoided and procurement costs it never expected.
“We did not predict early on that we would have the number of electronic jammers that we’ve got. We did not predict we’d have as many [heavily] armored vehicles that we have, nor did we have a good prediction about what our battle losses would be,” Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Post has a graphic depicting that this war in Iraq, in dollar terms, has surpassed the U.S. Civil War, the first Gulf War, and World War I in cost. We are going to surpass the Korean War in 9 months. And we are spending at a rate far greater than we were in Vietnam, and will surpass Vietnam in about 24 months.
Without getting into the tragic human casualties in this war, on both sides, the most important net loss from this war is the puncturing of American mystique in the world.
George Bush, Vice President Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and those who empowered them and/or did not do their jobs in constraining or overseeing what they did have pushed the American military to a near breaking point. Their poor planning and the mission creep they devised to turn a war against bin Laden into a war against much of the Middle East has shown the nation’s limits.
Now, Iran is moving its agenda forward. Allies like Europe and Japan are not counting on us as much. The President’s efforts to cut economic and trade deals in Latin America and during the APEC Leaders Conference fell with a thud. And now the Doha Development Round of trade talks is quickly dying.
It frustrates me greatly that Dems at the leadership level are not out making the case that this war and the maintenance of an occupation in Iraq are harming this nation’s interests and future capabilities in profound ways. Dems have a hand in approving these budgets — and they should begin linking defense spending to an Iraq withdrawal.
— Steve Clemons