U.S. taxpayers will be stuck with Iraq tab for decades
August 27, 2008 · Updated 8:33 PM
Mr. Rex Greene of Elida, Ohio, in a recent letter to The New York Times, made an excellent point concerning the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
The Iraq war is now unaffordable, wrote Mr. Greene.
He went on to point out that Even if it were a triumph of nation-building based on legitimate evidence of a threat to our security, it ravages our economic future.
The money side of the administrations Iraq adventure doesnt get that much coverage. Most people when polled dont really have a grasp of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent beyond the idea that it is a lot.
The proselytizing of democracy via American military might directed by the Bush administration has cost the United States about $400,000,000,000 to date according to the Iraq Study Group (ISG). That is $400 billion as of December for an admittedly successful invasion and deposing of tyrant Saddam Hussein, and the abysmally failed occupation that followed, which was supposed to plant a democracy in the middle of the Middle East. The ISG reports ongoing, pre-surge costs of $8 billion per month.
Disregard for the moment any arguments about whether the Iraq adventure did or did not have any immediate direct connection to the 9/11 attacks, WMDs, cooked intelligence or whatever. We went, we are there now, this what the war has cost so far.
Those figures do not include a valuation for war materiel that must be replaced, lives lost, horrific injuries incurred and resulting payments to veterans, or for damage already inflicted that has yet to appear on any ledger. Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, of Columbia University, and Linda Bilmes at Harvards Kennedy School of Government put the complete cost to date at $2.5 trillion and rising.
In an effort to equate that amount to something more concrete, Bilmes said $2 trillion would buy complete solvency for the social security system for the next 75 years.
There are those who do not agree with Stiglitz and Bilmes in how they arrive at the number. They would subtract money no longer being spent to enforce U.N. sanctions and the worth of lives no longer taken by Saddam Husseins regime. One study estimated those total avoided costs at $429 billion but that still leaves $2 trillion. Another study projected the total cost of the Iraq War at $1 trillion through 2015, but critics suggest a forecast that far into the future is fraught with problems related to the unknowable direction of war.
Others point out that there are costs associated with leaving Iraq as well. The president has put us in the position that having once grabbed this Iraqi tiger by the tail, letting go will be very painful. It may also be costly. Even if you believe that we went into this war with the best of intentions a justified use of American military power with the goal of spreading democracy to other parts of the world in the hope of making it a better place it is painfully obvious that the job has been bungled.
The war has dramatically affected our national debt, which currently stands at $8,718,572,483,588 $8.7 trillion and continues to increase an average of $1.57 billion per day. The national debt is now at 67.5 percent of the gross domestic product. When President Bush took office in 2001 the national debt was $5.6 trillion. Since then the Republican controlled senate has increased the debt ceiling four times in the last five years, last March to $9 trillion. Annual national budget surpluses that were used to pay down the national debt toward the end of the Clinton presidency have collapsed into annual budget deficits that have increased the national debt by 50 percent in six years. Even taking into account the amounts spent on unprecedented natural disasters and non-Iraq responses to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Iraq war itself is the standout element.
Those who argue that our response to 9/11 required the spend whatever it takes attitude touted by President Bush would do well to refocus on an approach that measures return on investment, particularly where our idealistic invasion and occupation of Iraq is concerned.
While President Bush may have been finally convinced to march us into Iraq in large part by Paul Wolfowitz, who Michael Gordon and General Bernard Trainor, in their well-sourced book, Cobra II, say also convinced a first skeptical Dick Cheney, the buck stops with Bush. True, Cheney, Wolfowitz and the phlegmatic Donald Rumsfeld kept the pressure on. Gordon and Trainor clearly document that Rumsfeld grabbed for power and micromanaged the invasion, then over-reached for control of the occupation. True, Rumsfeld and underling Douglas Feith totally botched occupation planning and overall management. But in the end it will be George W. Bush whose name will be married to whatever results from the Iraq affair.
Unfortunately it is and will be us and our children who pay the tab for the presidents adventuring. And tragically, the chances are excellent that the money would have been better spent.
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