Counting the Costs
With no end in sight, the price
for Iraq continues to skyrocket.
by Phyllis Bennis and Karen Dolan
In These Times magazine, August
When U.S. Proconsul Paul Bremmer left
Baghdad with what one of his own assistants called "his tail
between his legs," he left behind a still-occupied country
and a government completely reliant economically, militarily and
politically on U.S. backing. The American taxpayers' tab for this
quagmire is steadily mounting, as are the many other human, environmental
and other costs of this war to Iraq, the United States and the
Bremer's fake handover of sovereignty
really meant a transfer of control from Pentagon authority to
a growing State Department-CIA collaboration to run the country
after June 28. There's no end in sight to U.S. occupation.
We are paying far too high a price for
failure in Iraq. And 15 months on, too few Americans have any
real sense of the costs of this war. Many Americans and many more
people around the world already know that the Bush administration's
central claims for launching this war were lies. Iraq didn't possess
weapons of mass destruction, there were no mobile weapons labs
and, despite a few insignificant contacts, Iraq lacked meaningful
ties to al Qaeda. Still, a general lack of awareness regarding
the price the world is paying for the war has squelched informed
While most Americans are generally aware
that the death toll for U.S. soldiers already has climbed past
870, most do not know that the number of Iraqi civilians killed
is more than 10 times that number.
The enormous financial burden faced by
so many U.S. military families gets scant attention, and few U.S.
taxpayers realize how the billions spent on the war are expanding
the already huge budget deficit.
There are statistics that clearly document
the many costs to the United States, Iraq and the world for a
war that has failed to make us safer or bring democracy to Iraq.
Here are some of the numbers from a comprehensive
new study by the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy
In Focus titled Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq
* U.S. military deaths between the start
of war and July 6, 2004: 870. Besides the more than 5,000 U.S.
troops wounded directly in combat, an estimated i6,000 additional
U.S. soldiers have been wounded or sickened in Iraq. We still
don't know the numbers of those who have and will suffer psychological
wounds that may never heal.
* Iraqi civilians killed so far: 11,430 to 13,096. The Pentagon
refuses on principle to track the numbers of Iraqis killed; these
figures are the high and low estimates of the Iraq Body Count
team of British academics, who monitor the widest array of international
media reports to verify their figures.
* Detainee deaths during US. interrogation: 34. Local US. police
departments missing officers due to Iraq deployments: 44 percent.
The bill to U.S. taxpayers so far is $126.1
billion, plus $25 billion more authorized
for the rest of 2004. Economist Doug Henwood estimates that three
more years of occupying Iraq at $50 billion a year will cost every
U.S. household an average of $3,415. That figure doesn't include
the increase in the federal budget deficit and payments on the
debt that will plague the next generation for decades to come.
If the U.S. hadn't gone to war, here are some of the things we
could have paid for with that same $151 billion, according to
the National Priorities Project:
* Healthcare for 27 million uninsured
* 3 million new teachers, or
* Classes for 20 million Head Start students.
If we do the same substitutions on an
international scale, the calamity of this war is even more breathtaking.
If, instead of going to war in Iraq, the U.S. had spent the same
$151 billion on international assistance, we could have paid for:
* Food for half the hungry people in the
world for two years, and
* A comprehensive global AIDS program, and
* Clean water and sanitation for those lacking it in the entire
developing world, and
* Childhood immunizations for every child in the developing world.
Such a spending policy would likely have
laid the groundwork for making the whole world a safer place.
Instead, the United States, and the rest of the world, have become
less, not more, secure. Once the State Departments "mistake"
in calculating last year's Patterns of Global Terrorism report
was outed, Secretary of State Collin Powell finally admitted that
there were more "significant" incidents of international
terrorism in 2003 than any other time in the history of these
Around the globe, anti-American sentiment
has skyrocketed. Destabilization resulting from the invasion created
a terrorist haven in Iraq that didn't previously exist. According
to the influential International Institute of Strategic Studies
in London, the primary impact of the Iraq war on a! Qaeda has
been "accelerated recruitment'
The US. military is so overstretched that
there is talk of reviving the draft. Reserve troops and National
Guard are being called up in enormous numbers (364,000 are now
deployed around the globe, including about one-third of the Iraq
occupation force) and spending long tours in Iraq that often last
20 months at a time. The US. Army plans to recall to active duty
as many as 5,600 veterans who are not even members of the Reserve
to help fill gaps in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to news reports.
The war has left Americans less secure
at home, too. According to a recent survey by the US. Conference
of Mayors, fewer than one quarter of surveyed cities have received
any of the promised Homeland Security funds designed to assist
state and local "first responders"-police, firefighters
and emergency medical personnel, many of whom also are among the
reservists now posted to Iraq. Military families at home face
hardships associated with the loss of a breadwinner, including
bankruptcy, hunger, unemployment and poor housing conditions.
Not surprisingly, a US. Army poll showed more than half of US.
soldiers in Iraq had low morale. And a reported 50 percent said
they would not reenlist.
We should listen to the people of Iraq,
in whose name the Bush administration launched this war. In May
2004 polls conducted by U.S. occupation authorities, 55 percent
of Iraqis say they would feel safer if all US. occupation troops
left their country. L
PHYLLIS BENNIS is a Fellow at the Institute
for Policy Studies (IPS), and is the lead author of "Paying
the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War," the first
comprehensive accounting of the costs of the Iraq war to the United
States, Iraq and the world. IPS Fellow KAREN DOLAN co-wrote the