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Ear to the Ground

AFSC Dissects the Astronomical Cost of War

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Posted on Sep 22, 2007
anti-war march
AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

A member of Iraq Veterans Against the War leads an anti-war march to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15.

How could the $720 million the U.S. is spending on the Iraq war each day be put to better use?  Well, how about paying for the health care costs of 423,529 children?  Or giving 34,904 college students four-year scholarships, or providing 6,482 families with homes? 

These mind-blowing figures were crunched by the Quaker church-affiliated American Friends Service Committee as part of its “Wage Peace Campaign,” which the AFSC says is intended “to highlight the economic cost of the war and demand that Congress shift war funding to support human needs here and real solutions in Iraq.”


The Washington Post:

The war is costing $720 million a day or $500,000 a minute, according to the group’s analysis of the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes.

The estimates made by the group, which opposes the conflict, include not only the immediate costs of war but also ongoing factors such as long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware.

“The wounded are coming home, and many of them have severe brain and spinal injuries, which will require round-the-clock care for the rest of their lives,” said Michael McConnell, Great Lakes regional director of the AFSC, a peace group affiliated with the Quaker church.

The $720 million figure breaks down into $280 million a day from Iraq war supplementary funding bills passed by Congress, plus $440 million daily in incurred, but unpaid, long-term costs.

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Paul_GA's avatar

By Paul_GA, September 24, 2007 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

Mlevass, I’ll have to go along with that. Unfortunately, it’ll take a good while to wean everyone off the Welfare State, even if taxes are cut. If we can dismantle the Warfare State, that’ll be a good beginning, as I think war, and the expenditure of blood and treasure (especially the latter) to wage it, will be the ruin of this country yet.

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By mlevass, September 24, 2007 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

It is no surprise that most here want to reallocate these funds to something else.  That seems in tune with the entitlement thinking that is so prevalent.

Here’s a thought.  Instead of reallocation, CUT OUR TAXES!!!!!

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By purplewolf, September 23, 2007 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment

With what is being spent daily to keep this war going,more than 4,745,000 families could have had a new home since Hurricane Katrina and more than 927,100,000 homes could have been outfitted with renewable electricity.And that is just less than half of the amount of money spend since the beginning of the Iraq debacle.

I don’t know the exact number of people who lost their homes in Katrina,but I am certain everyone of those families could have been given a SAFE home over the toxic FEMA trailers,which our goverment in it’s genorousity has decided to give to the American Indians,but the Indians have to pay for having the trailers brought to them. BLANKET FEVER ROUND II.

And since our elected jokes in office claim they want to reduce our dependance on foreign oil,etc, wouldn’t it have been much more practical to invest that money in renewable energy.They have spend enough in just over 2 years to outfit over 927 million homes-over 3 times that of the entire population of America-not homes.

These political morons feel this $$ for Iraq is nothing,yet for the poor these same people make the rules for many poor that try to survive on like disability that doesn’t allow enough to pay the bills or food benefits of about 25 cents-$1.00 a day, yet food prices have climbed due to raising gas prices and other expenses-food programs are continually being cut or totally taken away. Then just last week the goverment cut the allotment they feel we need to heat our homes in the winter and told those they like to penalize because they are the poor, that another food benefit decrease is coming since we are now allowed less for heat. We all know the price for heat this winter will not go down.Especially in the northern states.Can’t afford to move to a warmer climate either.But hey, the war must go on,it’s more important for everyone but those who have to pay for it,some more than others.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, September 23, 2007 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment

Tikalismo, we have to understand that it’s not lack of nerve that keeps congress from saying no.  They’re playing the good ol’ boys game.  Not one of them will be adversely affected in any way by the obscene dollar cost of this war; their individual financial conditions make them immune.  It is middle and lower class America that will suffer, by increased taxes and decreased services.  If you’re in this class, wherever you are now financially, you’ll be worse off next year, unlike your reps in congress, whose financial condition most certainly will improve.

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By Frank Cajon, September 23, 2007 at 7:02 pm Link to this comment

Hey, don’t grieve too much, it’s not like the half trillion already spent is GONE. A soldier has to do one load of laundry a week, in a laundromat. They are not allowed to use any other laundromat but the Halliburton subsidiary’s, which charges the taxpayers $100 to wash a dry a load of ordinary laundry, that could be washed in a laundromat anywhere else for under $5. That money isn’t going away, it is being LAUNDERED, as is the money paid for every meal, every piece of toilet paper, every weapon, every pair of sunglasses, every thing used by our troops there. This entire war is a money windfall for the no-bid companies that are over there in greater numbers than our troops, packing nearly 50,000 commandos for their own ‘security’ and the people of Iraq see buttkiss, or if they are unlucky get shot down like dogs by Blackwater mercenaries. Why do you suppose that despite Bush/CheneyReich’s imperialist occupation leading to the highest national debt in US history (nearly $9 trillion), the large cap stock indexes are at or near all-time highs even when der Fuhrers have screwed up the ability of the vanishing middle class to own a home? Well, it is because this clusterfuck of a war was designed to make these companies rich and it has. The biggest money-laundering operation in history, and we are all a part of it.

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By tikalismo, September 23, 2007 at 4:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks to the American Friends Service Committee for finding a popular way to express huge numbers that usually just numb the mind. The supplemental funding bills are really only 40% of the budgetary impact. So when Bush asks for another $50 billion of funding, multiply that figure by 2.4 and you will have the real cost to taxpayers when the interest on the debt, the care for the wounded and the lengthening of the war is added in. That zipping sound you hear is the U.S. taxpayer credit card going through the machine once again because Congress does not have the nerve to say NO.

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By desertdude, September 23, 2007 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment

Before this war started, we were told it would cost
$200 billion Dollars. Also that we only needed 140,000 troops to take the country,(they would greet us as liberators.) Remember. With the next request from the President this war has cost 1Trillion Dollars. Just how much could America have done with this money for her people? The money is going to GW’s friends who paid for his election. 3700 dead for nothing. OH! but let’s stay the course. victory is at hand. Hoorahhhhhhhhh!

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By dick, September 23, 2007 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For the power elite, wars are highly profitable and risk-free, and we are completely ruled by them . The masses have no influence. The wars will continue, and, for example,  the Forbes 400, who now have more wealth than the total wealth of 65 million American households, are getting richer at an increasing rate, thanks mainly to our wars.

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By felicity, September 23, 2007 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment

From my old college text, THE COST OF MODERN WAR, WWII, estimated cost $l,384,900,000,000, would pay for all of the following:

A $16,000 house for every family in the US, Britain,
France, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.
A $10,000,000 library for every city of 200,000 inhabitants and over in the US, Great Britain, and Russia.
A $50,000,000 university for each of these cities.
A $2000 car for every family in the US, Britain, France, the Low Countries, Denmark, and Norway.
The salaries of 100,000 teachers and an equal number of nurses at #3000 a year for 100 years.
A free college education for every boy and girl in the US from 17 to 21 years of age.

Wars devour, literally devour national treasuries.

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By Dale Headley, September 23, 2007 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The core belief of conservatives is that there is only one legitimate objective of government: make war!  They despise poor people for taking even a penny from the business of war.  Of course, there are caveats: the wars must have guarantees of victory: Grenada, Panama, Iraq, etc.  They must provide enormous profits for corporations.  And they must have a large amount of sacrifice of life and limb by young Americans - none of what that wimp Ciinton did: deposing a dictator without losing a single American in combat.  How can you have flag-waving and Whitney Houston singing the national anthem if nobody dies?  And, finally, they must not have to serve themselves.  That’s why their heroes are people like Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and especially Dick Cheney - the champion with five deferments.  Plus Bill Kristol and all the other neocons who bent over backward not to take up arms to protect their country.

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Paul_GA's avatar

By Paul_GA, September 23, 2007 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

Dr. Knowitall:

The war continues because, despite all the blither-blather about democracy, the people have no real voice in this country any more. The Elites have it all.

Besides, there is no draft, which means the actual pain and travail of military service is limited to only a small percentage of Americans. Not that I favor the draft; quite the contrary, I view military conscription as “involuntary servitude” and unconstitutional as per the 13th Amendment.

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By Conservative Yankee, September 23, 2007 at 8:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If defense contractors were “nationalized” during war, and profits were strictly prohibited during the exercise thereof, there would be damn few wars!

Why should corporate entities which need the most defending, not be willing to risk as much as the poor 18-year-old who enlists for the sake of “patriotism” only, and who (in general) profits not at all from the war effort. Christsakes… the poor bastard can’t even buy a legal beer!

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By utahgentile, September 23, 2007 at 8:33 am Link to this comment

Let’s see, if this were a business (and it is), what would this country be expecting as a return on it’s investment?  Hmmmm ... let me think.

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By Paolo, September 23, 2007 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

War illustrates the only thing government is really good at: killing innocent people, destroying property, and wasting inconceivable amounts of money.

What would I do with the $720 million per day spent subjugating a harmless nation on the far side of the globe?

First, I’d use it to pay off our gargantuan public debt. That would take decades, even at $720 million per day.

Then, I’d reduce the federal government by strictly limiting it only to those few powers enumerated in the Constitution. That is, I would follow the rules.

I’m unimpressed by people who think (correctly) that the federal government is a murdering, destructive monster in its role as war-maker, but then becomes a paragon of goodness and virtue when it runs welfare programs.

Let the people keep their own money, and use it to build businesses and create prosperity.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, September 23, 2007 at 6:54 am Link to this comment

Bully for American Friends!  People have been bitching about this for four years now.  If everyone’s so anti war spending then why does it go on?  We’re all in lalaland.  America wants this war and so does the Middle East.  ?  How does this square with the idea of “perceived reality” (see “United by Hate,” Robinson) posted by Cyrena, et al?

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By Verne Arnold, September 23, 2007 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

I am certain the cost of this war was well known to the neo-cons long ago.  I am equally certain the result was predicted as well, long ago.  The game is to continue instability in the Middle East.  It’s judo; keep your opponent off balance while maintaining control.  This whole thing has been carefully orchestrated from the very beginning.  We have been effectively rendered impotent by a carefully organized process to gain total control of us, the people.  The judo continues here at home and I am sure there have been no surprises for this administration; they have played us well, for they know us well.  The huge amount of money spent and spending on this war could do many things for our society, but that would not help the mechanism necessary to control us.  So, to keep us under control there must be many distractions, divide and conquer.  Keep us insecure, financially dependant, and mad as hell at things not really relevant “under the circumstances”.  Fascism is a lock step towards oblivion as the band plays on.
Machiavelli and any despot worth his salt would be smiling now; they know this process well.

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Paul_GA's avatar

By Paul_GA, September 23, 2007 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

What a disgusting waste of good money—-seems that’s all States are good for, eh?

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By weather, September 23, 2007 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

How about the expansion and dramatic improvement of our rail systems.

Amtrak alone could embark on extensive job and improved service/technology related programs. Programs that touch urban and rural communities.

Its no wonder as a country America is suffering from core cynicism the catalyst for contempt.

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By thomas billis, September 23, 2007 at 3:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anti War always sound so pacifist.Americans are against stupid wars where the only winners are the arms suppliers and the oil companies.Americans live in a country where they have no representation.70% of Americans want a phased withdrwal and neither party gives a damn.War is the best way to steal money there is.In WW2 there was a Truman Commission checking out war profiteers with a democrat in office because it was more important to do the right thing than accumulate power and money on the backs of our kids.The Pentagon has hundreds of investigations going on profiteering.Where is the Congress?The Pentagon is part of the Executive Branch would you trust anything coming out of that branch of Government.Oh I forgot they have a day and a half to debate the Move on.org advertisement but no time to look into the billions that are being stolen.We have got the best government money can buy.

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By ShockandAwe, September 22, 2007 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for just mentioning Iraq Veterans Against the War. The MSM usually just refers to us as anti-war veterans in the paper, even in the Stars and Stripes. raspberry

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By vet240, September 22, 2007 at 9:02 pm Link to this comment

For some the war is about fear. For some it’s about “freedom”. For some it’s about “terrorism”. for some it’s about “patriotism”.

For all the above there is no money to be earned in their personal “war”.

For those who started and are now sustaining this war it is about one thing regardless of the words they use. For these it’s about the money stupid.

Who are these money lusters? It’s the military/industrial complex. It’s the oil boys. It’s the multi-national corporatacracy.

Who pays? Why you do stupid.

By overtly backing the megalomaniacs now in power in America you have chosen to strip this country of it’s two most precious resources, it’s soldiers and it’s wealth.

By accepting this you have weakened this nation to the point that nations like China, Japan, and Russia hold vast sums of debt we owe them. They can close us down whenever they chose by simply calling in the debt thereby bankrupting us.

We who have not spoken up loud enough for our newly elected Democratic representatives are also complicit in this fiasco that continues to unfold.

Write or call your Senators and Representatives. Threaten to initiate a recall election if they continue to follow this mad path into mediocrity and depression, as in the “Great Depression”.

Who wants to destroy our ability to govern in America. One loosely affiliated group. The multi-national corporatacracy. They want to go back to the time when people worked for the wages offered without Union interference. They want to go back to sweat shops and slave labor. They want to go back to the time when there were only two classes in any society, The very rich and the rest of us.

Out of the “Marshall Plan” grew a concept of corporations that can operate without any government over-sight or interference. Since then there has been two Americas. The one in which you and I live, and the one they live in which is all about power and wealth.

They can and will use your wealth to enrich themselves. They will arrange for you to pay for the greed and fraud committed by the Sub-prime Mortgage market, and they will make you pay for their god-damned wars too. And in the process you’ll have to settle for mediocrity in all areas of your life.

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By ocjim, September 22, 2007 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment

Try over $2.7 trillion. Even this dollar cost was mentioned over a year ago by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz. The cost we often hear is one-half trillion, but that is only a current budgetary number.

When you start looking at other costs that we are paying and will be paying for years to come, the budgetary figure is dwarfed. The remaining $2.2 trillion has many categories.

For example, the American economic productivity lost due to the deployment of some 160,000 military and at least as many members of the shadow army supporting our troops is a staggering number for our economy. Furthermore, there must be a value placed on almost four thousand American lives lost and payments to those left behind.

Years into our future we must pay our wounded veterans disability and medical expenses. Rebuilding Iraq and its infrastructure is not included in the one-half trillion we often hear.

No one has factored in the added cost at the gas pump that we bear. The interest on the debt we must pay for Bush’s war.

Then what is the value of the debt our children and grandchildren must repay decades into our future? That’s not included in the $2.7 trillion. What benefits do they forgo to pay these debts?

And we are not even done here. There are current lost opportunities. They are also not even included in the outdated figure of $2.7 trillion. These are what is mentioned in the article.

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