Iraq Metrics, Ten Years After

We should not forget what costs we incurred in search of weapons of mass destruction.



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Figure 1: Cumulative Killed in action (blue), and wounded in action (red) in Iraq theater of operations. “Mission accomplished”: End of major combat operations declared by President Bush. “Last throes of the insurgency”: Statement by Vice President Cheney. Source: icasualties.org.

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Figure 2: Cumulative direct costs, in current dollars by fiscal year, in the Iraq theater of operations (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”). Does not include resulting debt service. Source: Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” RL33110, Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011, Table 3. Data for FY2011 is for continuing resolution, for 2012 is Administration FY2012 request.

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Figure 3: Cumulative real direct costs, in constant (FY2010) dollars by fiscal year, in the Iraq theater of operations (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”). Does not include debt service costs. Source: Nominal figures from Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” RL33110, Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011, Table 3. Data for FY2011 is for continuing resolution, for 2012 is Administration FY2012 request. Deflated by CPI-all. CPI for 2011 assumes September 2011 m/m inflation is the same as August 2011 m/m inflation. Assumes 2012 inflation is equal to August 2011 CBO forecast for CY2012 inflation.

Figures 2 and 3 incorporate only direct fiscal costs to the United States government, and excludes interest costs. See here for another tabulation.


Weapons of Mass Destruction found: 0.

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43 thoughts on “Iraq Metrics, Ten Years After

  1. jonathan

    I didn’t see any mention of the hundreds of millions in extra veteran’s benefits and long-term medical care. I believe that’s about $500B.
    My personal note on Iraq. Back when this was starting, I was of mixed mind but went along with the idea because I placed a lot of emphasis on the human cost of Saddam’s regime and of sanctions. I read estimates of lives lost well into the hundreds of thousands. We learned later of the massive environmental destruction and the Shia killed in the South, but at the time the focus was on the money diverted from – or freed up by – humanitarian aid and the effect of that on children and the sick.
    The question to me was the moral obligation of a person and of nations to act when evil reaches such a scale. This wasn’t a case of “justice” that can be viewed in two ways. It wasn’t a civil struggle over power where we would be unsure about the morality of picking sides and thus determining a people’s future. This was monstrosity.
    So my interests coincided with the interests of many others who wanted war. But my interests diverged after invasion: I thought the idea of nation building was idiotic and the idea that we could export democracy utterly foolish. I wanted regime change and nothing more because any further intervention meant picking sides and thus determining winners and losers. I wanted to get rid of Saddam. His capture meant nothing. As I saw it, we would keep troops in Iraq but not occupy it with the troops being there in case that regime came back. We would stay as a club in the background. Instead, we ran the place and took over neighborhoods. Did not and could not understand what we thought would happen.
    I freely admit my hopes got the better of me.

  2. Rick Stryker

    We should also not forget that this search for weapons of mass destruction was a bipartisan mistake, which all the major democratic leaders, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, etc fully believed in and endorsed, as the following video documents:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5p-qIq32m8
    Of course, the defense now is that there was some kind of intelligence conspiracy to drum up a war by falsifying data on weapons of mass destruction and these democratic leaders were fooled. However, the bipartisan “Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction” investigated that claim in 2005 and concluded that although there was a massive intelligence failure the intelligence community presented the intelligence in good faith. These democratic leaders were not deceived. The report is here:
    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-WMD/pdf/GPO-WMD.pdf
    This was the Bush-Bill & Hillary Clinton-Biden-Cheney-Kerry-Pelosi War.

  3. ppcm

    A recurrent pattern of history that starts with poorly managed economy excessive credit supply, public accounts in rags and gesticulating politicians diverting the attention on the outside borders. It starts with ‘we waging a war against the nation heads, and not against the nations » the French revolution and the Austrian empire, a vocal transition that ends with full blown wars, the « gun boat policies » for some, as indeed boats, sea and sea shores and sea events are fixation abscess.
    The list of these historical events is long, readers have just to establish their selections of islands, sea shores, sunken boats as catalysts of sinusoidal hysteria .

  4. Johannes

    Menzie, do not be nasty, there must be a reason for our world-wide ultra high DoD spending : after the end of cold war our dearest enemy disappeared, such a pity.
    We had to search for another one – name it first Hussein and then AlQuaida (which is a CIA construction) !

  5. Steven Kopits

    It seems reasonable to assume that there will be a run on the Cyprus banks when they open.
    So the EU really has only two choices:
    1. Allow the Cyprus banks to fail.
    2. Have the ECB provide unlimited liquidity essentially without condition.
    Having absolutely bungled its opening hand, the EU will see that the ECB provides liquidity without condition. They really don’t have a choice, unless they have psychologically come to the end of the European Experiment. And I don’t think EU decision-makers are there yet.

  6. Ricardo

    Menzie wrote:
    We should not forget what costs we incurred in search of weapons of mass destruction.
    Neither should we forget that funds expended after 2008 were primarily for none combat purposes and the support of non-combat troops, essentially funding US surrender of the peace after the US military victory. The graphs are a great illustration of the comparative costs.

  7. Ricardo

    Steven,
    Your forgot. Cyprus could sell the banks to Russia supplying them with a Mediterranean naval base in the heart of the middle-east. Anything to keep the experiment going!!

  8. Buzzcut

    It was a bargain compared to the “stimulus”.
    Mitch Daniels thought that the invasion would cost $100 billion in total. So he was off by a factor of 9? By the standards of governmental forecasting, he didn’t do too bad.
    The world is undeniably a better place without Saddam, and Iraq is well on its way to being only as dysfunctional as the rest of the Middle East, which is quite an improvement.
    If we somehow knew that it would only cost $1 trillion and 4500 lives to get rid of the North Korean regime, would we take them out? We are getting down to a really small number of truly evil dictators that threaten global stability.

  9. Ricardo

    I am not a big Paul Mirengoff fan but he addresses this issue pretty well.
    The military objectives of the surge were (1) to curtail the sectarian violence that was tearing Iraq apart and (2) to deal a major, Sunni Arab assisted blow to al Qaeda (a goal Chandrasekaran neglects to mention). The surge accomplished both. That’s more than good enough for government work.
    Al Qaeda in Iraq has staged a comeback. But that’s due to post-surge developments including decisions by the Obama administration. The revival of al Qaeda in Iraq does not demonstrate that the surge didn’t succeed, any more than the rise of the Ku Klux Klan shows the Civil War effort to have been a failure.

  10. Steven Kopits

    From Reuters:
    The European Central Bank’s chief negotiator on Cyprus, Joerg Asmussen, said the ECB would have to pull the plug on Cypriot banks unless the country took a bailout quickly.
    So let’s assume the ECB continues to take a hard line. And further, let’s assume the Russians don’t come to the rescue (do they even have the technical capability to manage one?).
    So what then? Well, then the Cyprus banks would re-open with capital controls, and they would be gradually drained. So we would see a slow-motion bank run. And then what?
    I can’t help the feeling that the Euro zone is very close to the precipice. At least that is what the EU finance ministers and ECB seem to be signaling.
    Is Cyprus going to prove the Sarajevo moment?

  11. Menzie Chinn

    Ricardo: You write:

    Neither should we forget that funds expended after 2008 were primarily for none combat purposes and the support of non-combat troops, essentially funding US surrender of the peace after the US military victory. The graphs are a great illustration of the comparative costs.

    Hmm, sounds like we’re moving toward a “who lost China” critique to power the conservative meme going into the future. Thank goodness you didn’t reference “the glorious lost cause”.

    Second, let me observe that if you are able t do simple division, you’ll see that the majority of costs are incurred prior to FY2009.

    Finally, I am thankful you did not bring up your assertion (in your DickF incarnation) that Saddam Hussein’s collusion with al qaeda justified the invasion. Thank goodness for small blessings!

    Just to remind everyone how deluded you were, here is a reprise of your comment from January 2007:

    “More important than estimating the cost of the war is estimating the cost if there were no war. What would be the cost of a 9-11 event every 3 to 4 years? Granted there is no evidence that Iraq was directly involved in 9-11, but Iraq was involved in 9-11 through providing training bases, military leaders meeting with Al Qaeda prior to the events, and Saddam giving monetary support to militants worldwide. That is not to mention how much classified information we got from Saddam’s spider-hole. Naivet prevents connecting the dots which leads to a repeat of 9-11.

    The war was not justified with one 9-11. Would it be justified with two, three, more? When is our system of government worth fighting for? Never?”

    Priceless!

  12. Brian

    It amazes me how much Monday-morning quarterbacking there is. So many people yelling “I told you so.” But then why did both chambers of Congress so overwhelmingly support going to war? Oh, I know. “Bush lied. Bush is evil. Cheney. Halliburton.”

  13. Anonymous

    This makes me remember the question I had at the time.
    In intelligence you look for the answer to two questions.
    One is what is the capacity to do something?
    The second is what is their intentions?
    I kept asking why would Saddam ever think it was to his interest to provide Al Qaeda with WMDs?
    I never saw an answer to that question.

  14. CoRev

    Menzie, in light of recent US history what is your message? Korea — stayed and one part of the country is economically far better off than before. The other is one of the world’s worst in almost all measures
    Vietnam — left and the whole country is economically somewhat better off. Maybe a study using potential (GDP, social reforms ??? etc) is appropriate.
    Iraq — bugged out claiming our support no longer needed. Look at its neighbors to judge progress. Maybe, yes. Maybe no.
    Afghanistan — about ready to repeat Iraq experience. Look at country’s recent history post Russian invasion for probable.
    Message: change cost money. Are you saying the change was not worth it? Under which regime?

  15. Chris Marquesas

    Without doubt the stupidest war ever in US history. One of the stupidest of all time. One key question that is almost never asked: what benefit did the US get from this war? Aren’t wars supposed to give the war maker some benefit? Are all the killed and crippled ON BOTH SIDES benefits? Are the billions (trillions?) of debt created to wage it a benefit?

  16. JBH

    So what would Iraq look like if Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq which had the 4th largest army in the world at the time and was sitting on one of the world’s largest oil reserves? A tyrant who killed between 50,000 and 180,000 Iraqi Kurds, and was responsible for the deaths of at least 250,000 Iraqis altogether, and war crimes in 3 neighboring countries. This is analogous to the counterfactual of what would have happened if the Fed hadn’t acted in 2008 and if the $787 billion stimulus package had not passed. My considered judgment (and that of virtually all high level financial experts) is it would have brought the global financial system down and precipitated global civil strife. We can’t know in regard to either the financial system or Iraq because history is what it is. No comebacks, no chance to run the experiment a second time.

    Western civilization is by far the most humane and respectful of individual human dignity of all civilizations in history. The mantle of leadership passed from the British Empire to the American between the two great wars. This mantle entails responsibility for such matters as the Soviet Union during the cold war, and the rogue nations of North Korea, Iran, and Islamic terrorism today. It also included Iraq and Saddam Hussein, a megalomaniac sitting atop enough oil wealth to fund ultimate havoc. He was far more dangerous than Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jong-un, as Hussein had the masses of street Arabs across the Maghreb and Levant and the Arabian Peninsula rooting for him to unite them. His ambition was to be acknowledged head of the Arab world. The judgment of history will be far more nuanced and less simplistic than that of the kneejerk reaction of this blog. My point is this: Where is the balanced view of both sides of the Iraqi war (visible costs and invisible benefits) in the same sense economics wants to know the pros and cons of this financial crisis (ongoing as Cyprus makes clear), with costs of deficit spending already in the trillions let alone those to come, not to mention the potential ill consequences and costs of the QEs that have not yet arrived on our doorstep but are surely coming? There is no balance! None.

  17. PS

    “A great war leaves the country with three armies – an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves” – German Proverb

  18. JBH

    Buzzcut You distill a fountain of wisdom in four short paragraphs. I fear, though, bright as readers of this blog be your first paragraph – a mere sentence – will blow right by many. The reason is that few of us look past the first derivative. We humans live in an ever-evolving universe where each decision and act, from the thousands of personal decisions we make daily to singular ones like Truman dropping the bomb on Hiroshima or Elizabeth I sending the British fleet to foil the Armada, ought in our decisions take cognizance of both benefits and costs, present and future. Alas we do not.

    The notion of looking past the first derivative is a placeholder for recognizing the-change-in-the-change of what is being perturbed. A moment’s reflection is all it takes to see we would then bring into the discourse myriad new variables. We get it that spin, curvature, and acceleration are important when we play pool or drive a car. But once we’ve gotten it, we go on autopilot much as we put our wallet in a particular pants pocket each day without consciously thinking about it. These become “level” thoughts in short order by dint of habit. There is no change, no first derivative (other than the trivial one of zero). Said another way, most people lead their lives unconsciously. But in the real world there are always consequences on both side of the ledger, and often as not longer-term consequences – such as learning 30 years later (if you are lucky) that your chronic back pain developed over many years because you sit askew all day on that lump in your left rear pocket. Your belief structure calcified years back and you swear by your beliefs in that they’ve given you benefits such as knowing just where to reach when you need money. In general, however, actions do not play favorites in terms of benefits and costs or short-term or long. And with the ineluctable force of gravity they will eventually have their way.

    Econbrowser could raise itself out of the mundane level of Flat Land to the wider pastures of taking cognizance of and batting around ideas about the change in the change. It might help by always being explicit about the benefits and costs. Of course that may not suit the ideological purpose of some posters. If so, then this is where the discussion should really go. Otherwise as I observe so often here, it is like two ships passing in the night.

  19. Menzie Chinn

    JBH: It was sitting in on the early meetings of the Vice President’s working group on Energy Policy Development I first heard the term “think outside of the box”. Those were the scariest words an economist can hear — because those boxes usually incorporate costs, benefits, and parameters. I think that is what you are advocating. Well, good luck. Maybe we can diversify away all risk through sophisticated risk management! Oops. Well, I think I will stick with what I learned in graduate school — there are constraints.

  20. Christian

    I do not want to be pedantic …. but I think you cannot just post these things without mentioning the price that was payed by non-US citizens. The real “costs” of this war are much higher.

  21. Ricardo

    Menzie,
    Why do you keep printing the accurate claims I made, but attempt to give the impression they are false without any proof? Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you are a Progressive – name calling, mean spirited, but no analysis.
    That’s okay. We will all be on food stamps soon – oops, I mean SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: cheese, wheat, tobacco, sugar, and other nutritious items the government is storing in warehouses, free for all. By government decree every household gets a free “Horn of Plenty.”

  22. Jonathan

    It’s interesting how people fold everything together. The search for WMDs was bipartisan; no one wanted Saddam to have them. But for example Joe Scarborough had to retract his edited video of Nancy Pelosi supporting the war because they took the first line and left out the next where she said she refused to support the war resolution. My point is not that there wasn’t bipartisan support but that the hunt for WMDs through sanctions and UN investigation was different from war which was different from occupation which was different from exporting democracy which was different from nation building. People sign on for one and end up being carried along with the rest.
    Would I do it again. No. The cost in human life has been too high. US casualties were too high and estimates of Iraqis killed are well over 100k. That’s a lot of people dead and many more wounded. But I say it wasn’t worth it because of what happened after the war itself, after when Bush said “mission accomplished”. We can’t do counter-factual Star Trek alternate universe crap. What happened after the actual war was another war and that war was a terrible mess that cost too much in lives and money and misery and which in the end resolved nothing much at all.
    My mental metaphor for Iraq is Parthia and my mental metaphor for Afghanistan is the borderlands beyond the Rhine. Rome engages the Parthians carefully because that requires over-extending and reaching beyond capacity means you don’t accomplish. Rome engages beyond the Rhine because it needs to keep the bandits from organizing into a force that can be a real threat. Afghanistan had become bandit country and we needed to drive that below ground. Again, the idea of nation building or real pacification is idiotic: it will always be bandit country. The hope should be that threat of intervention keeps them far enough down that they aren’t a real threat to us for a long time.
    I use Augustus as a guide. When Varro was wiped out beyond the Rhine, he realized extending the rule of Rome to the Elbe was not going to happen. He could see this because Rome had already over-extended more than once fighting Parthia, with Crassus being the latest to be wiped out. You need to recognize your capacities and keep to them and you must use them to protect yourself. You can’t make the tribes into you but you can make them fear you enough that they leave you alone.

  23. 2slugbaits

    Rick Stryker and Brian In response to your questions, there were two reasons that Democrats like Clinton and Kerry voted for the war. Both reasons were bad. The first one is that they couldn’t be bothered to actually read the classified reports. Only a handful of Senators did. And one of those who did was Sen. Rockefeller, who said that if they had read the reports and discussed things with the expert briefers, they would have seen that the WMD case was paper thin. The second bad reason is simple political cowardice.
    Ricardo The Bush Administration did not make an ex ante argument for invading Iraq based on humanitarian reasons. In fact, the Administration went out of its way to emphasize the WMD case and argued against making a humanitarian argument because that would have led them to places that they didn’t want to go. The humanitarian arguments from ex-Bushies have all been after-the-fact rationalizations. There were those such as Christopher Hitchens who were making coherent humanitarian arguments for the war, but Team Bush was not in that camp. I didn’t agree with Hitchens, but at least he was consistent and made a coherent and principled case. So why does this matter? Because if the Bushies had actually made humanitarian concerns the war’s raison d’etre then it is likely that they would have prosecuted the war in a very different way. Objectives influence execution. For example, if the main concern had been humanitarian, then our logistics planning would have worried about water and electricity. Instead the Army only thought about supplying US troops with pallets of water bottles and electric power by tapping alternators on HMMWVs and trucks. I remember getting a panicked call from one of the logistics commands literally hours before the invasion wanting a crash run of a dynamic multi-item, multi-echelon stock optimization model for Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units (ROWPUs), only to find out that zero thought had been given to the need for ROWPUs in Iraq. All of the planning was centered around hopelessly unrealistic assumptions and absurd timeframes. Remember the maintenance company that was captured and the Jessica Lynch story? Ever ask yourself why a division ASL maintenance company was moving forward to perform company level/PLL maintenance? Why were they there in the first place? Because of lousy planning and unrealistic assumptions. And oh by the way, all of the models predicted risks of “contact ASL teams” in a forward area would happen but leadership refused to believe it because it didn’t fit Rumsfeld’s vision. Or huge blunders that exposed a battalion of Abrams tanks to Iraqi armor because of the need to fuel those tanks. The only reason the Abrams battalion avoided a bloodbath was because Saddam was so stupid that he ordered the Iraqi commander to leave that position 45 minutes earlier. The Iraqi commander was very smart and anticipated that US tanks would have to refuel in that spot. These are just a couple of examples of risks and costs that were anticipated beforehand but ignored by leadership. Hubris, plain and simple. There was no thought at all for humanitarian concerns. It was all about proving some half-baked theory about racing to Baghdad without concern for what happened in the rear. And there were plenty of division commanders who warned Rumsfeld months before the war started that he risked the kind of mess we ended up getting. So Rumsfeld’s response was to constrict MG Petraeus’ OMA funding by 80% and we ended up with a SECDEF controlling things down to the company/battalion TPFDL level. A cluster**** from the get go.
    JBH After the 1991 war Saddam was utterly toothless. He controlled about one-third of Iraq. He was no threat to anyone and at least acted as a partial check against Iranian ambitions. He did not have any WMD and no one seriously believed that he did. When pressed the only argument was to try and equate old, decaying cannisters of mustard gas with WMD. Newsflash…chemical weapons are only useful against unarmed civilians and after the 1991 war Saddam had no effective means of delivering any chemical weapons if the US really wanted to prevent him from doing so. And seriously, can you really make a convincing case for war based on the remote chance that Saddam might have had some old mustard gas shells buried in the desert?
    BTW, Elizabeth led English privateer forces against the Spanish Armada, not “British” forces.

  24. Bruce Carman

    JBH says, “Western civilization is by far the most humane and respectful of individual human dignity of all civilizations in history. The mantle of leadership passed from the British Empire to the American between the two great wars. This mantle entails responsibility for such matters as the Soviet Union during the cold war, and the rogue nations of North Korea, Iran, and Islamic terrorism today.”
    Yes, Anglo-American empire has been a great benefit to humanity. It’s about time we admitted to being an empire and act like one.
    Thank goodness we have the biggest, baddest WMD, including increasingly levered banksters’ speculative financial derivatives, and we ought to continue to value and support banksters for their skill, courage, and willingness to take the global financial system and economy to the edge of oblivion in order to continue advancing “progress”, profits, and imperial power.
    What good is an empire if its power can’t be used to exploit the losers in the Great Game?
    And what about all those profits by war profiteers that permitted campaign contributions to politicians to keep the war funding and profits going? Surely these benefits outweigh the costs of a few million lives.
    Moreover, the $750 million US Embassy compound in Baghdad is a classic example of imperial hubris and decadent waste. Who else besides the Egyptian pharaohs, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Mayans, Incans, and Donald Trump could get away with this demonstration of wealth and power?

  25. 2slugbaits

    There’s another cost that Menzie didn’t mention, and that is the additional cost of the Afghanistan war due to our early distraction with Iraq. Remember, in December 2001 the US had bin Laden trapped at Tora Bora, but inexplicably “someone” countermanded an order to deploy a battalion of mountain rangers to seal off the only escape route. Now GEN Tommy Franks claims that he is that “someone” and that he did it because of local political reasons with tribal chiefs. If you believe that one then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. At the time there were plenty of folks in very high places who were worried that capturing or killing bin Laden at Tora Bora would take away one of the key reasons for the planned war with Iraq. They wanted bin Laden alive in order to have a poster child for terrorism. The thinking was that they could always go back and get bin Laden at their leisure. Oops. How’d that plan work out? And the Iraq distraction also led to the laundering of FY2001 and FY2002 monies that were earmarked for Afghanistan going to build up the forces for the coming Iraq war. We had a decent chance to wrap things up in Afghanistan. Instead we let if fester for years, and by the time we got around to Afghanistan in 2009 it was already at stage 4 terminal.

  26. Menzie Chinn

    Christian and gaubin: I included at the end of the post a link to an alternative tabulation, which incorporates the (large) additional costs incurred by just about everybody, except Halliburton.

  27. dilbert dogbert

    Not my cup of tea but I expect Kissinger would have recommended keeping Saddam in place. He was very useful in keeping Iran, SA, Jordan, Israel and Syria occupied with his craziness. Bad for the Iraqi people but is the current situation an improvement? I do hear of the explosions that are building the foundations for the statue of Bush in Baghdad. Must be a very large statue. Seems they are building more that one.

  28. Menzie Chinn

    Ricardo: Exactly what document supports:

    Iraq was involved in 9-11 through providing training bases, military leaders meeting with Al Qaeda prior to the events, and Saddam giving monetary support to militants worldwide

    Be specific in providing your documentation. Is it a Doug Feith special?

  29. Anonymous

    JBH: “A tyrant who killed between 50,000 and 180,000 Iraqi Kurds, and was responsible for the deaths of at least 250,000 Iraqis altogether”
    So the U.S. goes over and kills another couple hundred thousand, creating two million refugees. Kinda hard to see the difference, at least from the Iraqi point of view.

  30. anon2

    I remember being willing to go along with the war until, several months into it, the US Military did not even bother to protect the suspected sites of WMDs.
    I also remember Osama stating somewhere that his strategy was to draw the US into a war in the Mideast that would sap our strength.
    We are still fighting that war that Osama wanted and it is still sapping our strength. I think Osama has at least fought us to a draw.
    I am in favor of using military strength to protect and defend. I am not in favor of stupid. And it amazes me that 10 years later we are still arguing over the merits of this misbegotten adventure.
    Perhaps it is me that is the delusional one.

  31. endorendil

    The very lowest estimate of the civilian Iraqi deaths runs well over 100,000, the highest ones (which include “excess mortality” due to the miserable conditions in “free” Iraq) bump around 1 million. Even war critics in the US rarely mention this anymore, but it is standard fare in foreign news. I don’t think many Americans appreciate just how confused the rest of the world is about the US these days. Why is there no prosecution of the architects of war? Does it relate to the fact that there are no bankers in prison? What happened to the rule of law, democracy or responsible leadership? If no one is held accountable in US courts, does that mean the international community has to step in?
    It also puts the priceless comment of Ricardo in perspective: if the US suffered a 9/11 every 3 years, it would take more than a century for the number of dead to rival the civilian casualties in Iraq. That’s without accounting for the fact that Iraq is 10 times smaller than the US. If you do that, a 9/11 event would have to happen to the US every 3 years for a millennium before it had suffered as much as the Iraqi people.

  32. Anonymous

    SK – it was interesting. The rail line east to the refineries in St Paul etc from ND goes right thru my town so I am well familiar with the train tankers. I personally don’t mind them.

  33. Ricardo

    Steven Kopits,
    A friend of mine reminded me of something I think you will find interesting. If you think about it the actions by Cyprus concerning bank balances is something that many Keynesians here in the US have been calling for – NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES! Why shouldn’t the banks simply give notice that they will charge a negative interst rate of 10% every year. I think I have even heard John Taylor call for negative interest rates.

  34. Eclectic Observer

    I’m going to stay away from the partisan positioning in this comment. However:
    1. Very important to understand the human and financial costs but your quick numbers don’t do justice to the total impact either for us in the US –I’m thinking Stiglitz here or for our opportunity cost– think domestically and in Afghanistan, etc. -costs that we incur, did incur or will incur because we undertook that War.
    2. I’d suggest that we have a larger instability in the Middle East and to some extent in the larger Muslim World as a result of the Iraq War. One may argue whether the instability is preferable to what was the Status Quo with the regime of that time.
    3. I do think that we might not recognize that we did have a longer term issue with Iraq as we were policing the no fly zones and the sanctions. I’m not arguing that the War was necessarily preferable but that we did have an issue.
    4. I wonder if our Iraq experience did undo the substantial morale and credibility boost for our Military that we gained (or repaired from Vietnam) with the First Gulf War.
    Anyway lots of food for thought if we don’t rush for our partisan comfort zones.

  35. Chris Marquesas

    “Western civilization is by far the most humane and respectful of individual human dignity of all civilizations in history.”
    Tell that to the hundreds of millions of New World Indians wiped out by the Spanish and Portuguese imperialists. To the Vietnamese murdered for wanting to unite their nation and make it independent, and so on and so forth. I think your knowledge of history is sadly lacking.

  36. John B.

    Its incredible to see how many lives were wasted for nothing. Is the current situation in Iraq better? NO. There is no major improvement, except for installing a highly flawed and culturally not acceptable Western model of democracy. Buying votes, electoral scams, patron-client relations, lack of education and no grassroots organizations are making the political situation unbearable.
    I´m a big fan of Eartship Green Homes. Why the hell couldn´t we go there and build one for each Iraqi instead of bombing them and killing their children by our high-tech arms.

  37. guabin

    ‘…Tell that to the hundreds of millions of New World Indians wiped out by the Spanish and Portuguese imperialists…’ More like several million, even if we omit to mention the contribution of the similarly cupidinous, albeit sanitised, Plymouth Rock set. And genocide would be the word.
    The cost/benefit analysis of the entrepreneurs’ actions do always assume greater importance than one for the victims, who are deemed the ungrateful beneficiaries. No accountability necessary.

  38. Anonymous

    “Second, let me observe that if you are able t do simple division, you’ll see that the majority of costs are incurred prior to FY2009.”
    Agreed, but the question remains: Why is Obama’s military spending dramatically higher than Bush’s? When will he start cutting the military expenses? Or is he a neocon in sheeps clothing?

  39. Menzie Chinn

    Anonymous: I’m not sure I understand your assertion. The gradient of the cumulative costs curve is declining, which means the flow is decreasing.

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