Photo: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
The Iraq war has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion so far and with interest could swell to more than $6 trillion, according to a study released Thursday.The study, part of the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, drew from actual expenditures from the U.S. Treasury and future commitments.
That $2 trillion figure comes from $1.7 trillion in war expenses and an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans.
An extra $4 trillion factors in to pay interest through 2053. The study notes that because the Iraq War appropriations “were not funded with new taxes, but by borrowing, it is important to keep in mind the interest costs already paid, and future interest costs.”
The study raises the total cost of the Iraq war from the $1.7 trillion cost (without interest) estimated in a 2011 Watson Institute report.
The new study concluded that both the war and the subsequent $212 billion reconstruction effort were failures as the war “reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women’s rights, and weakened an already precarious health care system” while “most of [the reconstruction] money was spent on security or lost to waste and fraud,” according to Daniel Trotta of Reuters reports.
There are so many examples of waste and financial mismanagement in the war, it’s difficult to list them all.
For example, when the U.S. invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, the country’s government owed Washington approximately $4 billion dollars — partially leftover from America’s “loans” during the Iran-Iraq War.
The debt was forgiven post-“liberation,” part of a concerted push of then-governor of the war Paul Bremer. He argued it would help “boost” the fledgling free market.
The prevailing claim is that use of private contractors saved on military salary and benefits — a claim which casts the half a billion in benefits owed to Iraq War veterans in a more defining light.
Some of the war’s critics had argued the war said it was about freeing up Saddam’s oil, which had been nationalized under the Ba’ath Party. However, when oil rights were awarded (often to the lamentations of local people), most seemed to go to foreign non-U.S. entities.
Those companies ended up contracting Halliburton, an oilfield services company, for the lion’s share of the oil field development. Halliburton, until 2007, owned a considerable stake of Kellog Brown and Root, one of the major contractors in Iraq allegedly responsible for misbehavior, abuse of funds, and less than adequate project completion.
In October an audit revealed that the U.S. owes Iraq $7 billion because of fraud, part of which came from U.S. Army diplomats losing gas receipts totaling to $1 billion.
The war’s direct death toll is estimated to be more than 189,000, including at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians (some from chemical weapons). The authors of this study note that indirect deaths — due to war related hardship — may total “hundreds of thousands more than this estimate.”
The obscene flow of money, violence, and consequent sectarian strife are still common in the country. Seventeen people were killed today in a Baghdad bombing, just five days short of the decade anniversary of the invasion.
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