By our most conservative estimates, the Iraq War has cost an almost unimaginable $3 trillion. A more realistic estimate, however, is closer to $5 trillion – once you include all the downstream “off-budget costs” of long-term veteran benefits and treatment, the costs of restoring the now-depleted military to its pre-war strength, the considerable costs of actually withdrawing from Iraq and repositioning forces elsewhere in the region.
Then there are the micro costs. For example, if a solider gets killed, his family gets a $500,000 lifetime payment. That is not included in the public budget when the costs of the war are considered.
These costs are real and are not going away. You can’t continue to sweep them under the rug. Like your credit card bill, the costs only grow greater if you ignore them.
Finally, anybody who says we ought to stay in Iraq for even another four years, no less the next 100 years, as John McCain has suggested, has to honestly tell the American people how they are going to pay the $12 billion-a-month bill. Where are we going to come up with another $1.2 trillion? And is that going to make America more secure?
Let’s get out sooner rather than later. Above all, let’s stop fantasizing. It’s those fantasies that got us in trouble.
Excerpt from an interview with Joseph Stiglitz
NPQ Spring 2008