Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Sticker Shock Keeps on Comin’

[[W A R]] * After what has been a particularly bloody week in the Iraq war, with 200 Iraqis and more than a dozen U.S. troops killed; and following reports that “as many as 80 percent of the Marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived,” had the Pentagon not deliberately withheld from them extra body armor, now comes a report estimating that “the real cost” to the United States of George W. Bush’s war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion--“up to 10 times more than previously thought.” As Britain’s Guardian newspaper explains, a new study conducted jointly by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Harvard budget authority Linda Bilmes expands on “traditional estimates by including such costs as lifetime disability and healthcare for troops injured in the conflict as well as the impact on the American economy.” Although the $2 trillion estimate seems exorbitant, Stiglitz insists that “Our estimates are very conservative, and it could be that the final costs will be much higher. And it should be noted they do not include the costs of the conflict to either Iraq or the UK.”

The Republican White House has consistently downplayed the costs of Bush’s ill-executed war on Saddam Hussein’s homeland. As The Guardian reminds us, “In 2003, as U.S. and British troops were massing on the Iraq border, Larry Lindsey, George Bush’s economic adviser, suggested the costs might reach $200 billion,” or about 1 percent to 2 percent of the gross national product of the United States. Mitch Daniels, then director of the Office of Management and Budget (but now the governor of Indiana), derided Lindsay’s estimate as being “very, very high,” and told news organizations that the cost would more likely fall between $50 billion and $60 billion.” Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz insisted that Iraq could finance its own reconstruction.

So much for Bush’s rosy scenarios.

Stiglitz, who with Bilmes will present their study in Boston tomorrow to the Allied Social Sciences Association, tells The Guardian that they haven’t attempted to “explain whether Americans were deliberately misled or whether the underestimate was due to incompetence. But in terms of the total cost of the war ‘there may have been alternative ways of spending a fraction of that amount that would have enhanced America’s security more, and done a better job in winning the hearts and minds of those in the Middle East and promoting democracy.’”

READ MORE:Iraq Sticker Shock,” by Mark Benjamin (Salon).

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