How much money have we spent to fight the so-called “war” in Iraq?

March 4, 2008 | By | 14 Replies More

A new Salon.com book review gives us the depressing and infuriating answers to how much the Iraq adventure is costing the citizens of the United States.   The book, written by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes, is titled “The Three Trillion Dollar War:  The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.”   In typical dyfunctional White House style, White House spokesman Tony Fratto has argued that the book is misguided because “One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11.”  As though the occupation of Iraq has anything to do with 9/11 . . .

The numbers presented by Stiglitz and Bilmes are truly staggering:

“The Three Trillion Dollar War” talks about two types of war-related expenses: budgetary and social. Budgetary costs include operational spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, which they estimate will total from $1.7 trillion to $2.7 trillion. (Throughout the book, the authors put forward two sets of figures: one based on a “best-case scenario” and one on a far more likely “realistic-moderate” scenario.) This figure includes the expense of keeping armies in the field, paying veteran-related costs, replacing equipment ($400 billion for this alone), and paying interest on the vast debt we have incurred to fight the war. So far, Congress has actually appropriated $645 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, plus the $200 billion Bush asked for in 2008. As the authors point out, this is more than the U.S. spends annually on Medicare and Medicaid combined. And the monthly “burn rate” to pay for the wars has gone steadily up, from $4.4 billion in 2003 to $16 billion today. This means that every American household is spending $138 a month on the current operating expenses of the wars.

The additional “social” costs that are not borne by the government are harder to calculate — and more controversial.

As an aside, I find the neocon sleight of hand interesting.  The usual neocon line when it comes to taxes is that money paid as taxes really belongs to the people.   Fair enough.   Why then, don’t neocons emphasize that these wild, irresponsible, inefficient and often corrupt expenditures on the Iraq occupation (I don’t call it a “war”) are being paid with my money and your money, not “government” money?  If any of you American families out there have a better use for $138 each month than blowing up buildings and people in Iraq, raise your hand!

In an interview published by McClatchy Newspapers Feb 27, 2008, Stiglitz warns that the worst is yet to come regarding our military expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan:

In an interview, Stiglitz said that too much of the public debate had been over the wars’ operational costs while the real budget strains would show up only years from now.

“The peak expenditures are way out,” he said, noting that the peak expenditures for World War II vets came in 1993.

The McClatchy article reminds us of the rosy 2003 predictions of the Bush Administration:

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would be self-financing and that rebuilding the nation would cost less than $2 billion.

Being off by a few decimal points in grade school gets a student a well-deserved “F.”  

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Category: Corruption, Economy, Iraq, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (14)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    The cost really is both insane and underestimated. I saw an article recently that said Bush's cost estimates exclude the replacement cost of military equipment that is wearing out much faster because of the occupation. Equipment like F-16 fighter jets. Obviously, the desert is a very hostile environment for such high-tech military machinery, which, combined with the large number of missions, means costly equipment will need to be replaced much sooner than otherwise would have been necessary. Yet another legacy of the Bush/Cheney transfer of public wealth to the military-industrial complex for purposes of protecting the oil industry. Come to think of it, with Bush from the oil industry and Cheney from the defense industry, what better way would there be for them to pump vast amounts of public money into both industries than by creating a gigantic foreign occupation that has no endpoint?

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Where to begin?

    The pricetag for 911 can be readily calculated. It might take a while to collect up all the 911 claims paid out by the insurance companies and the assessed value of the property damaged in the attacks. Just a guess, but I'll bet it's a heckuva lot less then $3,000,000,000. After all, this is America, where everything including the government, has a pricetag. As for the owners of the WTC…. it was a bonus. It is my understanding that the WTC was losing money as a rental property. BUt what does the 911 attacks, a set of totally forseen set of terrorist attacks, planned by a member of Saudi Arabian royalty who happened to be a former business associate of Dubya's have to do with the war in Iraq? Absolutely nothing.

    In a few years, when we are watching the evening entertainment on our overpriced Iraqi branded TV's and driving trendy Iraqi made cars some one may have a dim memory of a "war" in Iraq, but won't recall why.

    As for the 2003 rosy prediction of the war, it shou be remembered that the last words spoken by General George Custer to anyone outside of his party before riding off the the little bighorn river was: " This shouldn't take but a half a day!"

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Perhaps the saddest thing about the boxcar-loads of money spent for the unnecessary invasion of Iraq is that it it tends to distract us from the far greater cost: the needless death of 4,000 American troops and untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis (both civilian and military).

    • Richard Dodson says:

      You nailed it right to the cross. Bush has cost us everything…Something u might like to know . . . I was the 1st or 2nd person in usa that knew we

      were going to war. I called my broker 2 weeks after court ruled for Bush over Gore Chenny and Rumsfield. Both sold all the stock they owned on same day months before planes hit buildings….it was on stock channel on Sunday morning. Rick

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    So, what shall we do for the 5th anniversary of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq?

    On May 1st, 2003, Dubya flew to an aircraft carrier that was almost as far as possible from Iraq to declare that the war was over. That's when the expenses really got going.

  5. MIKE says:

    MAN..this country is run by a a bunch of morons. As long as they can put money in their own pockets they are good for anything. Please someone tell me in WHAT WAY CAN A MIDDLE CLASS family have a voice in anything (free speech, my ass free speech, you can talk but you won't be heard).

    Our current president is a prick, and sent all the money need to fix this mess in Iraq, as mention above, we'll be driving cars, getting other things that are made in Iraq in the US, but what are we getting out of it, OH WAIT.. NUTTING.. we'll have to pay Iraq.

    Why can't US use their own stuff, make their own, plan their own, buy their own, and tax heavily on IMPORTS. IMPORTS are making a TON of money and taking it out of the US, the government is getting a large sum of that under the table and letting it happen.

    But sooner or later when they money can't buy what's not available, then we'll see what happens.

  6. Charlene says:

    Regarding Mikes comment, I am in total agreement with most of what he says. I read a book a couple of years ago which was written by a sociologist. He contended that the elite, top 1 percent of the nation was agressively trying to eliminated the middle class. He said that the corporate elite and its administration had no real use for a middle class America, but did need an economic underclass to support needs and functions of the elite upper class. He said there were many signs that this upper class has been trying to gradually eliminated the middle class which was more of an obstacle to the initiatives of the upper class. What we are paying for is the substantial profits being made by the elite in Iraq, who are operating their subsidized businesses there. There is no other real purpose.

  7. yo says:

    OK, the leaseholder of the WTC got so much money off of 911- like $7bil or something. bush and Cheney got lots of money because bush is part of the Carlyle group, who provided the weapons, and Cheney is part of Halliburton, who rebuilt after. as long as the Bush/Cheney sleazebags get money in their wallet, who cares if the entire middle class wastes away!

  8. Jay Fraz says:

    Yo. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    How dare you accuse W. of profiteering.

    After all, George W. Bush did feel his biggest domestic policy achievement was pushing for Social Security Privatization. I mean, if Wall Street had all that money we would all be rich from our retirements, not like that big ol'waste SS. It would have multiplied just like the free market that always grows when that pesky government doesn't get in the way.(except to enforce property rights, we will allow that)

    http://thinkprogress.org/2009/01/05/bush-social-s

  9. Hey Fraz! Try, if you're at all literate, to read just the least little bit of history, in particular American History. It is replete with examples of American businesses that ran amuck when they were "regulating" themselves. I don't know how the Japanese have managed it, but we really need to develope or recall our sense of community and the common good. Our historic relationships between business and government and business' management and labor has been nothing but contentious. We are becoming a class society. That contributes to even more polarization. We certainly seemed to be better able to understand one another when there were more of us sharing the same standard of living.

  10. Jay Fraz says:

    Hey Edgar W.

    Just read your post.

    You may have missed that my post was highly sarcastic.

    Check the link.

    And to further your argument I suggest checking up on…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot

  11. Sorry Jay.

    I guess I'm on a hair-trigger here lately. Rather than admit to being gullible I'll have to give you props for having their line down so well. That got me going!

    I've been a beneficiary of W's Part D. It's hard not to have mixed feelings about that. I once had to choose between rent and meds.

    I think I'll start referring to my politics as Libertarian/Socialist.

    Edgar

  12. Rick Hanlon says:

    When will all this insanity stop? When we the people decide we've had anough. 16 billion a month is money ill spent. Stop all this killing, have we learned nothing since learning to make fire? Rick Hanlon

  13. Rick Hanlon says:

    When will all this killing stop. We the people did it in Viet Nam , why can't we do it again. When the people decide enough is enough is when it will happen. No more money for war… let's spent it on employment, education , housing , food amd shelter for those less fortunate in our own country. Rick Hanlon

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