True costs of war

True costs of war

Just in time for the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a new book by economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes attempts to project the real cost of the war. “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict” was published Feb. 29.

Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning former World Bank chief economist, and Bilmes, a Harvard University economist, recently wrote in The Times of London, “A $3 trillion figure for the total cost strikes us as judicious, and probably errs on the low side.” The two pointed out that the $3 trillion applies only to the United States, and “does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq.”

The authors count war costs that are hidden in other parts of the U.S. defense budget. They cite the cost of privatizing much of the war and occupation, noting that contractors can make up to $400,000 a year while soldiers cost the government about $40,000. They point out that the price of oil, $25 a barrel before the invasion, has quadrupled in the ensuing five years.

But the biggest monetary cost, they say, is caring for veterans’ health and disability needs. Stiglitz told Democracy Now last week that these “will total hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decades.” Noting that so far, some 1.6 million soldiers have already fought in the war, he said it is estimated that 39 percent of those who fight will end up with some form of disability.

The resulting burden of pain and suffering for the veterans and their families is almost impossible to imagine, even if they receive state-of-the-art care. Numerous reports of substandard treatment and denial of care have revealed the real picture.

Now add the pain and suffering of the families of nearly 4,000 soldiers and countless Iraqis who have died. And the horrors experienced daily by millions of Iraqis left homeless, jobless and bereft of any normal life because of the conflict.

No troops, no contractors, no bases, no war!