Don’t Forget the Costs of Iraq War: Now Beyond $432 Billion


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The costs of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq have tied up a staggering amount of resources that could have otherwise been deployed to great and necessary purposes elsewhere — at home and abroad.
I am not going to include in this brief comment the tragic human costs of those killed and injured on all sides of this debacle — but I’m just going to outline the Congressional Budget Office cost estimates of costs related to Iraq and the “war on terror” released today.
The figure — according to the CBO — is a whopping $432 billion.
To put that in perspective, this is $18,000 per person in Iraq. If computing just working age Iraqis, the per capita amount of these costs is $30,857.
The CIA fact book lists the purchasing power parity per capita GDP in Iraq as $3400. However, anyone with any genuine experience on the ground experience knows that the real income of families is much lower with individuals fortunate to earn something between $1500 and $2000 a year.
Bribery — or alternatively, enormous national investment and a complete intrasture facelift many times over — would have been more inspirational, less expensive, and tens of thousands if not hundreds would not be war casualties today.
Bush did not do this alone. Lots of Republicans and Democrats helped. Joe Lieberman gave a major assist. So did the Washington Post editorial page. And the neocons.
Accountability. Accountability. Accountability.
— Steve Clemons


14 comments on “Don’t Forget the Costs of Iraq War: Now Beyond $432 Billion

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  3. steve duncan says:

    CroP, veteran’s bills will go the way of Social Security. They’ll be tasked with investing a portion of their military pay in a health savings account to pay for post-conflict maladies and afflictions. “Oh, you don’t have sufficient funds for that prosthesis? Guess you didn’t save enough when you had the chance…….”


  4. CroP says:

    GAO also had the $430 in appropriations number — just a slightly different method to get it. Both GAO and CBO said the numbers are guesses, given DOD accounting and the fact that other agencies don’t report all their spending . Also, no one can predict future costs of Operations Iraqi Freed, Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle, etc., given the unknown situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas. And unless the politicians abandon the troops, there is a huge veterans care bill to be paid for the next 50+ years.


  5. DC says:

    Accountability, absolutely. Post 9/11, when the administration was advising us to duct tape cellophane to our windows and stock up on water, the WPost was cheering it on. This fearmongering was a travesty — and how soon we forget — but by what means will our media be coached back into shape, four years later?


  6. bob h says:

    Had the war helped lead as promised to Middle East peace, one could look at the money as an investment. But it most certainly has done the opposite.


  7. Pissed Off American says:

    I wonder what that figure would be if we factored in the money that has been sent to Israel in the same time period. How many kids could we have put through college? How many children could have health insurance? How much research could have been funded for alternative energy systems development? Cancer research?
    And this has just begun. Do any of you think the costs will subside in this decade? No way.
    Send this piece of shit Bush to the Hague, handcuffed to his neo-con pimps. NOW.


  8. sam says:

    The Dems don’t have the credibility to hold a peanut accountable. They tend to make people ill. Gore’s the exception.


  9. beth says:

    Economists can place various values on human lives–but like Steve, I prefer to leave that out of the calculus. It’s too cold..
    Economists also have calculations for the lost opportunity costs. As Steve mentions–imagine what else could have been done with that huge amount of money. Don’t even think about what could be done in New Orleans, or in so many developing countries. Too depressing.
    Hell, I’d prefer it to have been spent on some bloody Cristof environmental art piece, rather than on actual bloody carnage.


  10. Woo Wooooo, Woo Wooooo says:

    Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name …..


  11. steve duncan says:

    Accountability? There’s a joke. Bush is accountable to no one. He personally can cut short DOJ oversight into NSA wiretaps. I dare say he can probably put an end to ANY attempts to hold him responsible for anything he does. He’s already told SCOTUS to take their Hamden decision and shove it. As to the wiretaps, is there really any doubt Bush is listening in on the phone calls of Democrat politicians, reading their e-mails and looking over their financial/tax/medical records? Any doubt at all? He’s certainly doing the same to those in his own party. I’d venture he has more people’s balls in a vice than you can count. The only limits to his power he’ll suffer will have to be extrajudicial in nature.


  12. km4 says:

    Bushco, perpetual war, and the elite class
    The elite class are content to have perpetual war if their tax rates approach zero. They don’t care if innocent people get killed, they don’t care if the United States becomes a pariah, they don’t care if terrorism here is the result, they don’t even care about the huge budget and trade deficits that the Bush admin has created and that the national debt won’t be paid off for generations. They don’t care about class warfare and the shrinking middle class in this country.
    They put an amoral, arrogrant, ignorant, monkey in the White House because the elite financial, corporate, media class of the United States are making out better than ever before !


  13. btree says:

    Joe Stiglitz’ estimate: $1-$2 trillion
    Our analysis starts with the $500 billion that the Congressional Budget Office openly talks about, which is still ten times higher than what the administration said the war would cost. Its estimate falls so far short because the reported numbers do not even include the full budgetary costs to the government. And the budgetary costs are but a fraction of the costs to the economy as a whole.
    For example, the Bush administration has been doing everything it can to hide the huge number of returning veterans who are severely wounded – 16,000 so far, including roughly 20% with serious brain and head injuries. So it is no surprise that its figure of $500 billion ignores the lifetime disability and healthcare costs that the government will have to pay for years to come.
    Nor does the administration want to face up to the military’s recruiting and retention problems. The result is large re-enlistment bonuses, improved benefits, and higher recruiting costs – up 20% just from 2003 to 2005. Moreover, the war is extremely wearing on equipment, some of which will have to be replaced.
    These budgetary costs (exclusive of interest) amount to $652 billion in our conservative estimate and $799 billion in our moderate estimate. Arguably, since the government has not reined in other expenditures or increased taxes, the expenditures have been debt financed, and the interest costs on this debt add another $98 billion (conservative) to $385 billion (moderate) to the budgetary costs.
    Of course, the brunt of the costs of injury and death is borne by soldiers and their families. But the military pays disability benefits that are markedly lower than the value of lost earnings. Similarly, payments for those who are killed amount to only $500,000, which is far less than standard estimates of the lifetime economic cost of a death, sometimes referred to as the statistical value of a life ($6.1 to $6.5 million).
    But the costs don’t stop there. The Bush administration once claimed that the Iraq war would be good for the economy, with one spokesperson even suggesting that it was the best way to ensure low oil prices. As in so many other ways, things have turned out differently: the oil companies are the big winners, while the American and global economies are losers. Being extremely conservative, we estimate the overall effect on the economy if only $5 or $10 of the increase is attributed to the war.
    At the same time, money spent on the war could have been spent elsewhere. We estimate that if a proportion of that money had been allocated to domestic investment in roads, schools, and research, the American economy would have been stimulated more in the short run, and its growth would have been enhanced in the long run.
    There are a number of other costs, some potentially quite large, although quantifying them is problematic. For instance, Americans pay some $300 billion annually for the “option value” of military preparedness – being able to fight wherever needed. That Americans are willing to pay this suggests that the option value exceeds the costs. But there is little doubt that the option value has been greatly impaired and will likely remain so for several years.
    In short, even our “moderate” estimate may significantly underestimate the cost of America’s involvement in Iraq. And our estimate does not include any of the costs implied by the enormous loss of life and property in Iraq itself.
    We do not attempt to explain whether the American people were deliberately misled regarding the war’s costs, or whether the Bush administration’s gross underestimate should be attributed to incompetence, as it vehemently argues is true in the case of weapons of mass destruction.
    Nor do we attempt to assess whether there were more cost-effective ways of waging the war. Recent evidence that deaths and injuries would have been greatly reduced had better body armor been provided to troops suggests how short-run frugality can lead to long-run costs. Certainly, when a war’s timing is a matter of choice, as in this case, inadequate preparation is even less justifiable.
    But such considerations appear to be beyond the Bush administration’s reckoning. Elaborate cost-benefit analyses of major projects have been standard practice in the defense department and elsewhere in government for almost a half-century. The Iraq war was an immense “project,” yet it now appears that the analysis of its benefits was greatly flawed and that of its costs virtually absent.
    One cannot help but wonder: were there alternative ways of spending a fraction of the war’s $1-$2 trillion in costs that would have better strengthened security, boosted prosperity, and promoted democracy?


  14. Carroll says:

    Keep saying it, keep saying it….
    My strictly personal feeling is…a seperate lampost or cell for each and every one of them.


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