That’s Two Trillion, with a T

Back in the days of shock and awe
We came to liberate them all
History was the cruel judge of overconfidence
Back in the days of shock and awe

Back in the days of “mission accomplished”
Our chief was landing on the deck
The sun was setting on a golden photo op
Back in the days of “mission accomplished”

Thousands of bodies in the ground
Brought home in boxes to a trumpet’s sound
No one sees them coming home that way
Thousands buried in the ground

Neil Young, Shock and Awe

When America invaded Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would turn a profit, paying for itself with increased oil revenues. So far, though, Congress has spent more than $350 billion on the conflict, including the $50 billion appropriated for 2007.

But according to one of the world’s leading economists, that is just a fraction of what Iraq will actually wind up costing American taxpayers. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, estimates the true cost of the war at$2.267 trillion. That includes the government’s past and future spending for the war itself ($725 billion), health care and disability benefits for veterans ($127 billion), and hidden increases in defense spending ($160 billion). It also includes losses the economy will suffer from injured vets ($355 billion) and higher oil prices ($450 billion).

from, December 15, 2006

I thought this was an interesting and important counter-point to the post I wrote about the cost of the Iraq war. Or, at least, what might be called its formal cost, the amount of money that the U.S. Congress has allocated. As the Head Shrub prepares to force his violent surge on the Iraqis, U.S. soldiers, the U.S., and the world, that is an important number to remember. But it is also important to remember that this formal number is really only the tip of an iceberg, and that the real costs, both in lives ruined and lost and in money, are much higher. Neil Young has it right.

I have to say that I think that it is one measure of the bizarre state of the world that is one of the few sources in the mainstream media that thought this shocking research was worthy of more than a passing mention. It is certainly not being mentioned this week as the press and the Congress seem to be going out of their way to avoid substantive discussion of the costs of the war, either financial, human, or in terms of the prestige of the U.S. in the world. Much of the talk sounds like adolescent boy bravado: all that blustering about how “we can’t afford to loose” and so on.

On the other hand it is not hard to find the raw data or organizations full of people who want the war to stop.

  • Bookmarkz

    About Ray Watkins

    I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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