Once upon a time, an uncooperative man named Larry predicted that a war would cost as much as $200 million. Nonsense, said manly, robust Donald, the war will cost $50-$60 million tops, depending on the breaks. And other countries will pay for it anyway. And the war killed an evil dictator and liberated a nation to live in freedom and peace and with gratitude toward Donald and his friends. And everyone lived happily ever after.
Remember those days? The Iraq war lost its fairy tale luster long ago. Now, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Beam have produced a study detailing the true costs of this endless snuff film. (Thanks to Stone Soup Musings for calling my attention to this.) Not only are we flushing $12.5 billion a month right down the toilet, Stiglitz and Beam estimate that the final cost of the war will exceed $3 trillion dollars. (In other words, Donald was off by 6,000 per cent.) This means that:
- The Iraq war will cost more than any war in our country's history except World War II;
- World War II cost about $1,000 per troop in 2007 dollars. The Iraq war costs $4,000 per troop;
- When it comes to casualties, the Defense Department keeps two sets of books. The second set, available only via the Freedom of Information Act, shows that the actual number of casualties in Iraq may be as much as double the official list.
Now, people will argue that the expense is ultimately irrelevant: That 9/11 and national security justifies it (ignoring the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.) They'll point out that the United States didn't prevail in World War II by not spending what it took to win. Even so, this leaves more than a few questions unanswered. Why did the Administration feel compelled to lowball the American people regarding the cost of the war? Why are the costs still off budget? (Congress appropriates money for the war separately from omnibus budget legislation.) Why have taxes not been raised to pay for the war? How will the costs of the war ultimately be extracted from the American economy, as they surely will?
In World War II, there was a strategy to win. In World War II, the country mobilized to fight by raising taxes, selling war bonds, enacting conservation measures, and instituting a military draft that ensured shared sacrifice. Today, we buy SUVs while military families bleed and break under stress. The United States emerged from World War II as the most powerful nation in the world and with a shining international reputation. The war in Iraq has isolated us internationally and polarized us at home. And, sadly, the bill hasn't come due yet. The stark truth remains that the Bush Administration sold the public a short, easy war on the cheap and delivered a protracted, bloody conflict of gargantuan expense. And conservatives wonder why Bush's approval stays at 30%.
This Just In: President Bush claims that the economy is not, I repeat not headed for a recession. Asserting he has already "acted robustly" (presumably he means the tax rebate) to forestall a recession, he dismisses the need for further stimulus. Given that he's at odds with most economists -- some believe that a recession has already started -- The Question again comes up: What planet is he living on?
By the way, he looks terrible -- not at all robust. Maybe it's finally dawning on him what a complete failure his administration has been. Sure. And maybe the tobacco companies will admit that cigarettes cause cancer, too.
Correction: A friend notes that Don Mattingly's nickname is "Donnie Baseball," not "Donnie Ballgame." Even so, where do you think the idea came from?