The cost of war: nearly $2 trillion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 


The Congressional Budget Office (COB) released its accounting for the “War on Terror” last month, revealing that more than $450 billion has been spent to date, with more than 70 percent of those funds being spent on the war in Iraq. That figure is expected to reach more than $600 billion by the end of this year.

According to the same report, the total cost for the war is now estimated at between $1.2 trillion and $1.7 trillion, depending on how quickly troops are withdrawn from Iraq.

Thus far, the war has cost $4,000 per American taxpayer. At the end of the war, it is reported that every American man, woman and child will have provided at least $10,000 a piece for war funding.

Spending in Iraq has been far more than the White House told the American people it would be in the days leading up to the war. While no actual budget was ever released, White House financial advisor Larry Lindsey told the Wall Street Journal in September of 2002 he estimated an “upper bound” estimate of between $100 and $200 million.

At the time, then director of the White House budget office, and current Indiana governor, Mitch Daniels called Lindsey’s estimate “very, very high.” In January 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld estimated the cost at “something under $50 million.”

Some analysts believe the new figures released by the COB are low and the government is once again underestimating the total cost. These new figures don’t include the cost of long-term health care for the more than 30,000 soldiers who have been wounded (an additional $100 billion at least), the interest costs on the large portion of war funding that is coming from deficit spending (another $100 billion at least) or the cost of rebuilding the military when and if the war in Iraq ends (another $100 billion at least). Some have also included more than $150 billion in increased oil prices as a result of the war in tallying its final costs.

Comprehensive estimates of the cost of war now consistently place the total at about $2 trillion, a figure Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics, predicted more than a year ago. While Stiglitz is a former advisor to President Clinton, and a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq, mainstream media outlets and conservative analysts are now agreeing with his estimate.

The taxpayer cost for the Iraq war thus far has averaged more than $200 million per day. For the same amount of money, more than 17,000 American students could attend a public college for one year tuition-free; nearly 400,000 uninsured children in America could receive insurance coverage for a year; every baby born in the U.S. in the last year could be immunized against measles, mumps and rubella more than 14 times; and more than 1,000 new border patrol agents could be hired.

Internationally, $200 million a day could feed all of the starving children in the world four and half nutritious meals, build more than 5,000 AIDS clinics in Africa or provide one-third of the total aid needed for earthquake relief for the 4 million people affected in the South Asia tsunami last year.

The war has cost Indiana taxpayers more than $6 billion to date, with nearly $1 billion coming from taxpayers in Indianapolis. In Center Township alone, the amount taxpayers have spent on the war could have instead been spent to build 53 schools, or 4,500 housing units, or provide nearly 70,000 children with health care for more than four years.

But the cost of the war is not merely financial.

Three thousand five hundred and thirty-two Americans have lost their lives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war began, more than 600 more lives than were lost on Sept. 11. At least 75 of the war dead called Indiana home.

The cost of war has, perhaps, been highest for Iraqis themselves. While the American government has refused to keep a tally or release the number of civilian deaths in Iraq, the White House acknowledges around 35,000 Iraqi citizens have been killed in the fighting over the past four years — though the United Nations recently reported that 34,000 Iraqis died last year alone. The most reliable British source estimates the civilian deaths at closer to 65,000.

By the numbers

$2 trillion: Estimated cost of the war through 2013

$463 billion: Cost of the war to date

$200 million: Cost of the war per day

50,000: Conservative estimate of Iraqi lives lost

32,544: Number of Americans wounded in was as March 8. 2007

3,532: Number of American troops killed as of March, 8 2007



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