Bush's folly: the cost of our Iraq War keeps rising
By Anita Dancs
Global Beat Syndicate
NORTHAMPTON, MA--For the fourth time since the Iraq War began, the Bush administration has submitted an emergency supplemental budget request to congress to pay for the cost of the war. The supplemental request contains $81.9 billion worth of new spending, including around $60 billion to continue funding the war in Iraq.
The war in Iraq has been poorly planned and executed. The Bush administration underestimated the costs, the troops and equipment necessary, the strength of the resistance, and our ability to bring about "regime change" in Iraq.
The consequences have been devastating, at home and abroad.
Vice President Dick Cheney told us that our soldiers would be greeted with flowers by the Iraqi people, but as we all know, the situation has been quite different. Over the past two years, the insurgency has grown. Attacks on coalition forces are nearly fives times what they were a year ago. The number of insurgents, according to the Brookings Institution's "Iraq Index," is at least three times what it was a year ago.
The Bush administration's response has been to twice increase troop levels over the past year. The White House has scrapped earlier plans to have much lower troops levels by this point. At present, 185,000 reservists and National Guard troops have been called up, primarily to serve in Iraq or to 'backfill' positions vacated due to war by active units.
Tragically, nearly 1,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than 10,000 have been wounded. In addition, an article published in The Lancet , a prestigious British medical journal, used cluster-sample surveys to estimate that tens of thousands of Iraqis, possibly 100,000, have died due to the war.
After nearly two years of war and billions of dollars spent, soldiers in Iraq still report insufficient armor and equipment shortages. In a much-publicized incident, Secretary Rumsfeld had to answer a soldier about the lack of armor for Humvees. Unarmored Humvees are not intended for use in high-threat situations. Again, it appears to have been outside the administration's contingency plans that our troops could possibly end up being located in a shooting gallery for so long, and that many Iraqis would not welcome their presence.
This unrealistic White House planning for this war is also reflected in Mr. Bush's claims about the cost to taxpayers. Originally, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget stated that the war would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 - $60 billion, though no supporting figures were provided for this estimate. When the administration's economic advisor, Lawrence Lisdsay, estimated a cost of around $100 - $200 billion, he and his numbers were summarily dismissed.
With the recent request for more war spending, the cost of the war in Iraq will reach nearly $210 billion--and that just takes us through Fiscal Year 2005. The recent budget for FY 2006 identified no such spending for either Iraq or Afghanistan, even though these are now long-term engagements that hardly qualify as "unexpected," which is the purpose of emergency supplemental spending requests.
The Congressional Budget Office has recently estimated spending over the next decade for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and based on those figures and the spending patterns for both, it appears that we will be spending another $300 billion from next year onwards in Iraq alone--and that does not include the interest payments on this money, because we must borrow it.
This becomes a half-trillion dollar commitment--or more.
Had the Iraq War been necessary for American security, we could obviously find the money. We would have buckled down and called on everyone to sacrifice, rather than legislating tax breaks for the wealthy during wartime.
But President Bush's recent budget proposes cutting domestic discretionary spending by $19 billion (not including homeland security, which would rise by 1 percent). The investment in our country--in our infrastructure, our workforce, our future generations--everything we need for a robust, healthy economy, must take the hit. Our future is a high price to pay for this administration's folly.