The $1.3 Trillion War

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Linda Bilmes, a Commerce Department assistant secretary from 1999-2001 who teaches budgeting and public finance at Harvard, estimates that

if the American military presence in [Iraq] lasts another five years, the total outlay for the war could stretch to more than $1.3 trillion, or $11,300 for every household in the United States.

See a graphical representation of Bilmes' math here; her column here. Key section:

But the biggest long-term costs are disability and health payments for returning troops, which will be incurred even if hostilities were to stop tomorrow. The United States currently pays more than $2 billion in disability claims per year for 159,000 veterans of the 1991 gulf war, even though that conflict lasted only five weeks, with 148 dead and 467 wounded. Even assuming that the 525,000 American troops who have so far served in Iraq and Afghanistan will require treatment only on the same scale as their predecessors from the gulf war, these payments are likely to run at $7 billion a year for the next 45 years.

$1.3 trillion is more than the annual GDP of Canada, Mexico, Spain and 217 other countries. (Bilmes link via Anti-War.com.)

NEXT: Heavily Armed Troops Crack Down on Utah Rave

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  1. At what price-point does slavery become worth more than Freedom?

  2. At what price point does oil become worth less than the lives of our children?

  3. I want deep cuts in marginal tax rates anyway.

  4. Huh? Who’s children? Are 12 year olds fighting over there?

  5. Look, they’re not just HANDING OUT loosely confederated nations who base their laws on the Koran, are firmly allied with Iran, and are built for imminent civil war at SuperTarget, you know. Sometimes you have to pay retail.

  6. I’m sure the burgeoning Islamic republic we’re underwriting is worth every penny.

  7. Ouch. Blowing it on beer, strippers, and go-karts would have been a better investment too.

  8. Have they finished that Koran-based constitution yet? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  9. I’m sure the women of Iraq will be thrilled to know we spent to much to bring them the benefits of life under Sharia law.

  10. Finally, I get to bear some of the cost of this war! This is better than a draft!

  11. Here’s what joys your tax dollars are bringing to the women of Iraq:

    http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article305879.ece

  12. Why do former Assistant Secretaries of Commerce hate America?

  13. Where are the right-wingers to explain why this is worth it, and we’re all safer because of it, and the Iraqis (especially the women, and the guys who sell the acid that gets thrown in their faces when they dare to venture outside) are much happier because of our invasion?

    Don Mynack?

  14. Jennifer, I think they’re all writing new words to put into Casey Sheehan’s mouth.

  15. Although the triumphalist taunting that accompanied Flight Suit Day, Purple Finger Day, and Spider Hole Day certainly make the hawks fair game for this mockery, it would behoove the Reality Based Community to avoid repaying them in kind, if only to deprive the “you’re objectively pro-Saddam” side of the opportunity to bemoan their opponents’ shrillness.

  16. Ouch! Health care costs are skyrocketing – Now’s the chance to nationalize the system!

  17. traditionally, the only thing more expensive than an empire is a poorly-run empire. seeing as we seem to be incapable of having the former, i’d suggest abandoning the latter.

  18. Joe–

    You actually think the hawks are capable of feeling shame in regards to this?

  19. Jennifer,

    The people who wore band aids with purple hearts on them to make fun of a guy with shrapnel in his ass?

    No, I don’t think they’re capable of feeling shame.

    I expect we’ll start seeing the “stabbed in the back by those secular, cosmopolitan types who own the media and don’t share our Christian values” conspiracy theories any time now.

  20. “I expect we’ll start seeing the “stabbed in the back by those secular, cosmopolitan types who own the media and don’t share our Christian values” conspiracy theories any time now.”

    Right. Like we’ve never seen comments like those on H&R. I don’t remember them attached to pro-war sentiments, though.

  21. Matt Welch obviously opposes high government expenditures, especially ones that don’t yield clear economic benefits.

    The returning soldiers are likely to impose a high health-care cost on the US for decades to come, with no (or little) economic benefit.

    Non-returning soldiers do not impose such a cost.

    Plainly, Matt wants the soldiers to die in Iraq. Matt, why do you hate America?

    NOTE: The views expressed in this post are not necessarily those of the author, or any sentient being.

  22. Just remember, Joe, the Iraqis would have thrown flowers at our troops, and would have turned into a happy US-loving democracy, if only traitors like you had had the decency to keep your damned mouths shut.

  23. Guys, I simply have to laugh at the complete cynicism that runs rampant on this board. Not that I don’t share, but Shelby and Jennifer’s last posts are hi-fucking-larious examples.

  24. Jennifer, joe, if neither of you are readers of Obsidian Wings, you should be; it’s a group blog with a mix of liberal, conservative and moderate posters, and I think you’d both enjoy it. It was started by former regular commenters at Tacitus.org, but ended up being a much better blog.

    In any case, I bring it up only to note that, over there, one regular front-page poster and several right-wing loon commenters have already started the new war apologist PR campaign: We Can Only Encourage The Iraqis, And If They Don’t Adopt A Democracy With Equal Rights, It Isn’t Our Damned Fault.

  25. ” one regular front-page poster and several right-wing loon commenters have already started the new war apologist PR campaign: We Can Only Encourage The Iraqis, And If They Don’t Adopt A Democracy With Equal Rights, It Isn’t Our Damned Fault.”

    As opposed to the left-wing loons PR campaign: “Suddam Hussain is better then a Muslim Democracy.”

    Hey anyone know how much WW2 cost using the same criteria? The cold war? Civil war?

    But i guess if you think that all war is immoral and US history proves it then i guess there is no point in argueing…

    By the way are libertarians isolationists? I really don’t see this argument put forth very much that we shouldn’t be anywere…south korea, Nato UN, etc. I can see this intellectual argument. But the stuff put out recently on this board does not follow that logic…in fact it mirrors the democrats argument…which is any arguemnt we can make so long as its anti-bush.

  26. Tu quoque! Strawman! Another strawman! False comparison! Excluded middle!

    Did you have any actual arguments to make, or . . . ?

  27. “As opposed to the left-wing loons PR campaign: “Suddam Hussain is better then a Muslim Democracy.””

    Thanks, Rush.

    More accurately, Saddam Hussein was better than either another theocracy or a civil war.

  28. gaius: It really is a poorly run empire if the imperial forces waste time on security and infrastructure for the subjugated. A good emperor would just steal the wealth and enslave the people.

    Jennifer, et al: One one hand you complain when USA meddles in another nation’s self-determination, then on the other, you complain when they self-determine in a way you disprove of. You’re really setting yourself up for some trite “there’s no pleasing women” wisecrack.

    Julian: Do you actually believe we’ll keep funding them so extravagantly if we’re not happy with their form of self-determination? There really not much oil flowing from Iraq, so you can’t fall back on that tired conspiracy theory (not so tired when applied to Saudi, however).

  29. By the time your children repay the trillion bucks, it will only feel like a few dozen billion. Inflation is the friend of those who sell debt. And if you are a tax protestor, you get the whole war for free!

  30. “Right. Like we’ve never seen comments like those on H&R. I don’t remember them attached to pro-war sentiments, though.”

    You wait, Steve. You just wait. The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    M1EK, “More accurately, Saddam Hussein was better than either another theocracy or a civil war.” Better? I dunno. Worth it? Not even close.

    But then, I would probably say that if we could have had these casualties for free.

  31. $1.3 trillion? I have this credit card that gives me a $25 gift certificate for Amazon every time I spend $2500. I do all of my regular purchases by credit card, plus utility bills, insurance, major purchases, etc., and pay the balance every month, so I don’t have to carry much cash or write many checks. So I get a lot of gift certificates.

    So, if Bush had just used this credit card to pay for the war, he could get $13 billion worth of Amazon gift certificates. That would be more than enough to buy him a copy of an Econ 101 textbook and teach him that farm subsidies, tariffs, and drug prohibition make no sense.

  32. thoreau-The man supposedly has an MBA from an accredited university. The fact that he didn’t take the time back then doesn’t bode well for anything like that. He’d probably buy himself a new pair of running shoes. Of course, Kerry would have bought books in French, so we should be grateful, I guess.

  33. Although the triumphalist taunting that accompanied Flight Suit Day, Purple Finger Day, and Spider Hole Day certainly make the hawks fair game for this mockery, it would behoove the Reality Based Community to avoid repaying them in kind, if only to deprive the “you’re objectively pro-Saddam” side of the opportunity to bemoan their opponents’ shrillness.

    I expect we’ll start seeing the “stabbed in the back by those secular, cosmopolitan types who own the media and don’t share our Christian values” conspiracy theories any time now.

    Nah, just hint that hawks are Nazis.

  34. We were lied into the war and now our government and the neocons want to keep spending more money and even more lives until the “mission is complete”. Just WTF mission is that?!

    The neocon’s REAL mission now is for our government’s troops to stay in Iraq so that they can be used toward regime change, or at least pressure on Iran and Syria.

  35. It really is a poorly run empire if the imperial forces waste time on security and infrastructure for the subjugated.

    So the Roman Empire fell because of all the roads and aqueducts it built in conquered territories?

    One one hand you complain when USA meddles in another nation’s self-determination, then on the other, you complain when they self-determine in a way you disprove of.

    No, I complain when the USA turns a secular nation into an Islamic theocracy, and has the gall to say this will make Americans safer, and make the people living under the theocracy more free.

  36. Jennifer,

    We didn’t MEAN to turn Iraq into a theocracy/failed state/terrorist haven. Our hearts are pure! Our hearts are pure!

  37. Eric,

    “Nah, just hint that hawks are Nazis.”

    Actually, I was thinking of the Nixonite conservatives after Vietnam. But I guess your version works, too.

  38. You’ll never hear me suggest that it would be BETTER if Saddam were still in power.

    But when I look at the prospects of an Iran-leaning theocracy or a failed state/terrorist haven, I’m not sure that Saddam would be much worse either.

    Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

  39. FWIW, The Onion offers this little gem on the future of Iraq:

    Iraq Declares Partial Law
    BAGHDAD?Citing the chaotic state of his occupied nation, president Jalal Talabani declared a state of partial law in Iraq Monday. “We must preserve a few laws and some order,” said Talabani in a televised address. “If not for our own sake, then for the sake of the peace-loving citizens who make up nearly half our population.” Talabani said the state of partial law is temporary, promising that within the decade, his interim government will be replaced by a more stable fascist theocracy.

  40. Joe–

    Protest all you want, Planner Boy. Your lack of faith in our leader is what got us into this mess. Everything would have been fine if you’d just shut the hell up and put more yellow ribbons on your car.

    That’s right, I said it. Somebody had to. It’s about time we put the blame for this debacle where it belongs–on the backs of those who opposed the war in the first place. Every American soldier who died is blood on your hands, Joe.

  41. Jennifer,

    Clap louder, or Tinkerbell will die.

  42. Tinkerbell’s a Bush-bashing gay-loving anti-war traitor. Good fucking riddance.

  43. Tinkerbell would be ashamed of what Peter Pan is doing. Peter pan is a whore, a pimp, and a traitor.

    Peter Pan doesn’t speak for me.

  44. It’s too late to turn back now, Joe. All great Neptune’s ocean won’t wash the blood of the patriots from your handds.

  45. OK, that one totally went over my head.

  46. And lest any of you think I’m being unduly harsh on Joe, just consider this: the mess we’re in, in Iraq, is clearly somebody’s fault, and if we don’t pin the blame on the Joes of the world, then who’s left to blame? The guys who actually got us into this war? The guys who forgot to plan for what would happen after we reached the Mission Accomplished point? Pshaw. Not them.

  47. Joe–

    Lady Macbeth. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wipe this blood from my hand?”

    No.

  48. Pardon the threadjack.
    Matt, is this the day the music died? I got dead air all the way from Mission Viejo to Orange.

  49. Bad news Matt.
    http://www.smmirror.com/volume2/issue7/off_the_air.html

    No more shall we hear the sweet cry “Wake up. How many times do I have to tell you to get the #!$% out of bed?”

  50. the mess we’re in, in Iraq, is clearly somebody’s fault, and if we don’t pin the blame on the Joes of the world, then who’s left to blame? The guys who actually got us into this war?

    You mean the Congress, who gave GWB a blank check? Twice?

    No…you can’t engage any more sophisticated analysis than simply blaming somebody who goes to church regulary. After all, that’s proof of how completely stupid a person is. There’s certainly no responsibilty to be shared by the previous pagan president for the world situation today. Bubba gets a pass, but somehow previous righty administrations do manage to get some demerits for their meddling in the middle east.

    Do you actually have a mind, or are you composed entirely of anger and cigarets?

    (That’s rhetorical. I know you have a mind. You’re just not using in this thread)

  51. you can’t engage any more sophisticated analysis than simply blaming somebody who goes to church regulary.

    So. . . you’re saying that I’m saying that this mess in Iraq happened because Bush goes to church? WHAT?!?

  52. I’m snarking that you choose not to look at the whole situation. Although you incessantly complain about what GWB has done and is doing, you’ve got no other alternative to offer, and you rarely if ever call out any of the other wackjobs who share responsibility. So I figure there must be some emotion-driven component to focusing on the current President, and you seem to hate the righteous even more than the merely rich and well-connected.

    It not about who is the cause, it is an observation about who you choose to blame.

  53. Dynamist, I blame EVERYBODY who got us into this bullshit false-pretense war. And if the Republicans were as big on “personal responsibility” as they claim to be, we’d hear a few more mea culpas and a few less “everything is fine. We must stay the course. You go to war with the army you have, not the army you’d like to have” justifications.

    And yes, yes, let me beat you to the punch: CLINTON believed some of the bad stuff about Saddam too. But Clinton didn’t start a war over it. I am more concerned with actions than thoughts.

    And when you’re sticking up for your party, you REALLY need to do better than “Bush goes to church whereas his predecessor was a pagan.” You’re sounding as ridiculous as I did when I blamed Joe for the war–except I was kidding.

  54. But Clinton didn’t start a war

    But he wanted to. That’s why he sent Mad and Al on tour in 98. For some reason the country wasn’t insane then so the crowds shouted them down and told them to go home.

    I wonder what Shrub is putting in the H2O supply that Bubba didn’t have.

  55. Jennifer: My party? I have a party of one. My tickets are always split between the majors, the minors, and animated characters. Daffy Duck has been a write-in on every ballot I’ve cast.

    Generally, I’m not defending Bush as much as I’m attacking shabby arguments like the ones you often make. E.g., don’t intervene, but also don’t allow self-determination. How does that make any sense?

    You so rarely blame anyone other than GWB I must be forgiven for not remembering any instance where you volunteered such a view. Since you’re past the point of rational argument on anything Bush has touched, I find it more fascinating to speculate on your psychology. In my experience, the lefties are angrier and hate-filled than the righties. If my experience isn’t too clouded by my own filter, I wonder why the lefties are always so pissed off? Jesus envy?

    (joe, certainly a lefty, is an exception to my above stereotype.)

  56. E.g., don’t intervene, but also don’t allow self-determination.

    No, actually my complaint is: don’t turn a secular society into a society run by Islamic radicals, and then lie and claim that this will somehow reduce the threat from Islamic radicals. Do you honestly believe that only a rabid Bush-hater could decry the fact that we’ve created another Islamic theocracy? And when Bush was selling us this war, when did he ever say “Having Iraq turn into a theocracy with close ties to Iran is exactly the goal we’re striving for?”

  57. Jennifer, what possible good can it do, when discussing American foreign and military policy, to focus on the President of the United States?

    How come, when you talk about Iraq, you’re always talking about what George Bush did, instead of what, say, Dunnis Kucinich or Pat Robertson did?

    There must be some kind of emotional reason why, when discussing the policies and assumptions behind the Iraq War, you always talk about George Bush and his administration.

    I think it’s because you hate the righteous and/or Jews.

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