The $3,000,000,000,000.00 War

$3,000,000,000,000.00.  Or, if you prefer, three trillion dollars.  Any way you cut it, that’s A LOT of money.  And according to Joseph E Stiglitz and Linda J Blimes, that’s how much the United States’ war in Iraq has cost, estimating conservatively.  Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winning economist takes a fascinating look at the cost of the Iraq war.   And the numbers are not pretty.

Stiglizt and Blimes begin by pointing out that all of the money we have spent on Iraq so far has been allocated by Congress through "emergency" appropriations which do not go through the normal system of checks and balances.  While the use of emergency appropriations may have been reasonable when the war began, with the war now entering its sixth year (with no end in sight) this is a serious lapse in the procedures that are supposed to protect the people’s money.   The authors also point out that the Pentagon’s accounting systems and practices are so shady and shoddy that considerable detective work and analysis was required to compute even the "hard" costs (money that has actually been paid out).  But these two highly competent economists do in fact manage to sort out and determine what we have already paid as well as what we will inevitably have to pay before this war is over.

Even more disturbing are the "soft" costs these economists determine will eventually have to be paid, including disability payments to US service members wounded in action, the costs of these service members not having productive life spans ahead of them and even the costs that their family members will incur in caring for them for the rest of their lives.   The book is very readable and the authors do an admirable job of explaining complex economic information in clear and concise language.   There are at this point no easy answers for the question of  ‘what should we do about Iraq’.  But Stiglitz and Blimes have provided an invaluable estimation of what the bill is going to be.   The Three Trillion Dollar War.   Highly Recommended.