18 March 2008


Five years today.

I have neither the time nor the inclination today to outline the numberless Iraqi dead, the almost four thousand American dead, the thousands more American soldiers maimed in mind or body, the war crimes, the erosion of our armed forces' strength, the lost mystique of our intelligence services, the strengthening of al Qaeda and Islamist jihadism, the unrecoverable loss of American credibility, the corrosive effect on our whole political culture. I'll just give you this piece from the Financial Times about the money: Iraq war costs inspire shock and awe.

Six months before the start of the US led-invasion, Larry Lindsey, then White House economic adviser, estimated that the war in Iraq could cost as much as $200bn.

The claim, which cost Mr Lindsey his job, was dismissed as baloney by Donald Rumsfeld, the then defence secretary whose own estimate was $50bn to $60bn. Andrew Natsios, head of the Agency for International Development, estimated the reconstruction of Iraq would cost the US $1.7bn (€1.1bn, £849m).

These estimates have proved to be what the war’s critics say is just one of many grievous miscalculations. The Iraq war will be five years old on Tuesday, and serious estimates suggest it will be, with the exception of the second world war, the most costly in US history. Two academics estimate the government is spending $12bn a month in Iraq, while the Joint Economic Committee of Congress says the war has so far cost a US family of four $16,900, a bill that could rise to $37,000 by 2017.

The most conservative estimate of the war’s cost comes from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, whose remit limits its analysis to US government spending. Up to September 30, the end of the 2007 fiscal year, it says $413bn was spent on Iraq. From then until the end of 2017, it calculates overall spending on Iraq and Afghanistan at $570bn-$1,055bn, depending on how quickly troop numbers are reduced. If three-quarters of the budget is spent on Iraq, the ratio of recent years, future direct budgetary costs would be a further $428bn to $788bn.

Interest payments on debt raised so far and attributable to the Iraq war would cost $290bn up to 2017, with a ­further $131bn to $218bn ­covering spending over the next 10 years. This would bring the US government bill until 2017 for Iraq to $1,300bn-$2,000bn.

That's right. More than a trillion dollars.

If you had a trillion dollars, what would be the first thing you would spent it on?


meliny said...

Let's see... five new houses and five new cars (gotta care for the children, ya know), all modestly priced by Bay Area standards, a few trips to exotic places just for fun... *calculate*calculate*... that leaves me $995 million left over.

Now for the tough choices... to decimate another country or to fly to New Orleans and meet Brad Pitt. Or 20,000 houses, car, grocery sets for impoverished Americans.

The mind boggles.

Kate said...

I would pay off the national debt.


kirsten said...

My vote goes to health care for all Americans and improving the education system. And there might still be some left over. (Hi Jonathon--I found the link to your blog on Facebook. Hope to see you at the reunion!)