Costs of War
budget includes the largest increase in defense
spending in two decades -- because while the
price of freedom and security is high, it is
never too high."
- President George W. Bush, State of the Union
Address January 29, 2002
what is it good for? Absolutely nothing,"
- singer Edwin Starr who died April 4, 2003
the end of its third week, the "balance
sheet" of the war on Iraq is clearer than
it was just a few weeks ago. Even as conflict
continues, a quick look at the costs of war
can help those on both sides of the issue evaluate
whether it has been a war worth waging, in dollars
and in lives.
let's look at the money. On April 3 the U.S.
Senate and House passed the largest ever supplemental
spending bills - approximately $78 billion -
to pay for the war in Iraq, bolster homeland
security, and provide additional support for
allies and the commercial airline industry.
These funds are in addition to the 2003 Department
of Defense budget of $379 billion.
the Senate bill $7.85 billion is provided for
foreign aid including $1 billion for Israel,
$1.1 billion for Jordan, and $2.47 billion for
Iraqi Postwar reconstruction. The house version
also includes $50 million for Palestinians in
the West Bank and Gaza, $400 million for Afghanistan,
and $105 million for Columbia. Both bills provide
over $4 billion to bolster homeland security
and over $3 billion to support the commercial
airline industry. These are just some of the
costs to the United States; Australia and the
U.K. have spent many more billions.
addition to military costs, the State Department
announced that the through the Office of Reconstruction
and Humanitarian Assistance, around $750 million
will be spent for humanitarian relief for the
Iraqi people. This includes $530 million previously
allocated to the United National High Commission
for Refugees (UNHCR) and $200 million in cash
for the World Food Program to purchase food
from American farmers for shipment to Iraq.
An additional $20 million in grants has been
earmarked for non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) such as CareUSA, Save the Children, and
Mercy Corps International.
bill for ongoing administration has not been
calculated at this time, but a recent report
from the Council of Foreign Relations sheds
some light on what those costs might be. In
Iraq: The Day After, the CFR states that once
Baghdad is firmly under U.S. control, the administration
should be prepared to spend "some $20 billion
per year" to maintain "75,000 troops
for post-conflict peace stabilization....as
well as funding for humanitarian and reconstruction
shown on the financial ledger are the additional
human costs of this war. British and American
forces have seen in excess of 100 soldiers killed
during the first three weeks. Iraq has certainly
lost thousands of soldiers, but accurate numbers
are very hard to come by at this stage. Civilians
have also borne a terrible price for what the
administration calls their "liberation",
but civilian casualty figures are even more
difficult to obtain at this time. Estimates
already point to numbers in the thousands.
Body Count, a compilation obtained by surveying
news reports around the globe (www.iraqbodycount.net)
puts the total of civilian deaths at more than
1,000 with an untold number of injured. The
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
says that during one intense period of fighting,
more than 100 casualties were arriving at hospitals
the American homefront, there are many casualties
as well: Those loved ones who wait anxiously
as news trickles in about the fates of their
children, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters;
Families with relatives and friends inside Iraq
tune into web sites to gather the latest news
about the war; Entire communities who share
their grief for those killed in action; Peace
activists who react in dismay at a war that
they were unable to prevent; Administration
officials who wait for the voters' reactions.
And somewhere another child loses a parent.
any day now, the killing and destruction will
stop. Then, after a period of costly occupation
and rebuilding, our troops can return to their
families here at home. The costs of war for
those injured physically and mentally will continue
and be a new challenge to the already overburdened
Department of Veterans Affairs just as it was
for the veterans of Desert Storm. In Iraq, citizens
will have to live with the lingering effects
from depleted uranium used in the bombing campaign.
the financial and human toll of this war may
pale in comparison to other modern conflicts
- WWII, Korea, Vietnam - but it is obvious that
armed battles between nations continue to be
a costly venture and the price is remains high.
War is still, in the words of General Sherman,
Peace - Charlie
founder of Texans for Peace, recently returned
from his second trip to Iraq, undertaken through
the Christian Peacemaker Teams organization
of Chicago. He is a high-tech CEO and lives
with his two sons in San Antonio.