The cost of Iraq

Linda Bilmes, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and coauthor of “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict,” today assesses the Iraq war in the Boston Globe.

She points out the ongoing cost after the last soldier leaves, a nation unprepared to absorb veterans into the economy, health costs that are underfunded, and the increase in the price of energy.

All that said, she says there’s no telling where all the money went:


We urgently need a system to track military and war spending. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, Pentagon inspectors general, and others have repeatedly complained that we lack the basic accounting systems necessary to understand where money is spent. Since 2001, the regular Pentagon budget has increased by some $800 billion in addition to war spending. Yet the Air Force and Navy have smaller and older fleets than before, while the Army and Marines are roughly the same size. Where has all the money gone? The Pentagon’s accounting systems are so flawed that there is no way even to perform an audit. The result is a legacy of rampant waste and cost overruns, war profiteering, co-mingling of war and non-war related funds, and an inability to tally the true cost of war.

4,486 Americans have died in the war. There are only 18,000 soldiers left there, most have the same goal: Not to be the last soldier killed in the war.

If they’re successful, that distinction will go to Pvt. David Hickman

“I’d tell him: ‘You shouldn’t have broadcast that everybody would be out by the end of the year. It made them targets. You should have slyly got them out,’ ” his mother, Veronica, told the Los Angeles Times when asked what she’d like to tell President Obama.

He was supposed to come home last Thursday.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Yeah, that’s a lotta money.

    And US blood and tears.

    AND more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed.

    AND more than 1,000,000 Iraqis wounded.

    AND more than 2,000,000 refugees.

    And any and all US good will in the region – butchered.

    Good thing we found those WMDs, huh?

    “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.”

    I. F. Stone

  • bob g.

    I am a GWOT veteran (Army). Prof. Bilmes is the wisest commentator on Iraq matters, especially related to veterans. Her solution for fixing the veterans disability backlog situation is legendary: that VA should do what the IRS does with taxes; provisionally accept all claims (since it eventually approves 95% of them), and then audit a sample of claims to weed out fraud. This would save the US taxpayer a ton of money in personnel and would save the veterans years of woe. Might result it a few more claims being granted, but its worth the price, and its the only example I know of a sensible new approach to this problem.