Saturday, March 16, 2013

Iraq: The True Cost of the War may exceed $6 Trillion

The U.S. war in Iraq has cost approximately $2 trillion, with additional trillions in benefits owed to war veterans, rebuilding our armed forces, paying off the debt, and more. Expenses could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades, according to a recent study on the real Costs of War completed by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians. When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war's death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said. This does not include those that were injured or forced to flee their homes or country.

The report was the work of about 30 academics and experts and was published in advance of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003. See

The report concluded the U.S. gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it. The war reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women's rights, and weakened an already precarious healthcare system. Meanwhile, the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely deemed a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud.

According to the report, former President George W. Bush's administration cited its belief that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's government held weapons of mass destruction to justify the decision to go to war. U.S. and allied forces later found that such stockpiles did not exist. In addition, his administration estimated the cost of the war would be around $50 to $60 billion.

The forecasts for the cost and duration of the war proved to be a tiny fraction of the real costs. If we had had the foresight to see how long it would last and the cost in lost lives, we would not have gone in. There are major lessons to be learned here for future administrations, Congress, political parties, and the people of America.

Now that the war is over, the bill has come due. To pay for the financial predicament we now find ourselves in, some politicians are now advocating we simply cut social programs like Social Security and Medicare – pensions and healthcare for American workers.

What can we learn from all this as we move into the future.  How do we now go about paying for the Iraq War? Do we cut social programs and benefits for American workers? What other constructive alternatives should be on the table?