Iraq: The Three Trillion Dollar War —Joseph E Stiglitz
With March 20 marking the fifth anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Iraq, it’s time to take stock of what has happened. In our new book The Three Trillion Dollar War, Harvard’s Linda Bilmes and I conservatively estimate the economic cost of the war to the US to be $3 trillion, and the costs to the rest of the world to be another $3 trillion — far higher than the Bush administration’s estimates before the war. The Bush team not only misled the world about the war’s possible costs, but has also sought to obscure the costs as the war has gone on.
Was this incompetence or dishonesty? Almost surely both. Cash accounting meant that the Bush administration focused on today’s costs, not future costs, including disability and health care for returning veterans. Only years after the war began did the administration order the specially armored vehicles that would have saved the lives of many killed by roadside bombs. Not wanting to reintroduce a draft, and finding it difficult to recruit for an unpopular war, troops have been forced into two, three, or four stress-filled deployments. The US administration has tried to keep the war’s costs from the American public. Veterans groups have used the Freedom of Information Act to discover the total number of injured — 15 times the number of fatalities. Already, 52,000 returning veterans have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
America will need to provide disability compensation to an estimated 40 percent of the 1.65 million troops that have already been deployed. And, of course, the bleeding will continue as long as the war continues, with the health care and disability bill amounting to more than $600 billion (in present-value terms). Americans like to say that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Nor is there such a thing as a free war. The US — and the world — will be paying the price for decades to come.
Note Eu-Digest: Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize of economics at Colombia University is the co-author, with Linda Bilmes, of "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict"