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Iraq War Will Cost the American Economy $3 Trillion

September 1st, 2010

President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the nation on the end of the American combat role in Iraq. Fifty thousand troops will remain behind to train the Iraqi security forces, and with massive bases remaining and the country’s biggest embassy located in Baghdad, it is clear that a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq is foreseen. The road has been a long one since the previous president, George W. Bush, formally announced the “end” of American major combat operations in Iraq from the deck of an aircraft carrier, more than 7 years ago.

One can debate about the merits of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq ( I happen to believe it was a major strategic blunder) but what cannot be debated, apart from the human toll, has been the frightful cost to the U.S. economy. In 2008, two distinguished academicians, Nobel Prize winning economist  Joseph Stiglitz  and his colleague, Linda Bilmes from Harvard University, published the most comprehensive analysis of the actual cost, current and future, of America’s Iraqi adventure. Their conclusion, published in 2008, was that the ultimate expenditures of the American taxpayers due to the Iraq war and its aftermath will be at least $3 trillion. They labeled their study, quite appropriately, “The Three Trillion Dollar War.”

In the current economic purgatory that America finds itself in, it is astonishing that no policymaker has been held accountable for this $3 trillion “mistake” (mistake, that is, for those who believe the invasion was really based on the claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction-as opposed to reengineering the Middle East and securing oil resources).  However, these same policymakers tell us to relax, the war was placed on the nation’s proverbial credit card, so it will be the children and grandchildren of America who will eventually pay for the Iraq military conflict. But what about the costs of the Afghanistan war, which will likely reach and may exceed the figures that  Stiglitz and Bilmes calculated for the Iraq conflict? Add them all up together, factor in the structural mega-deficits and costly financial bailouts engineered by the politicians in Washington, and one cannot escape the conclusion that it will be bankruptcy, not victory, which will be the final outcome and legacy of America‘s war on Iraq.

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