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Commentary Last Updated: Mar 25th, 2008 - 00:01:43

The cost of war in plain English
By JC Garrett
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 25, 2008, 00:59

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The war in Iraq has now cost Americans countless dollars and over 4,000 American lives. I say over 4,000 because the death toll put out by the Bush administration does not include all the American contractors that have died in the war.

There are studies that estimate the long-term costs as being anywhere from one to six trillion dollars, and the general consensus now -- even among the most optimistic Bush Believers -- is that the least we will end up spending in Iraq will be more than one trillion dollars. That's if we start pulling troops out tomorrow. Already, not counting such expenses as continued health care for wounded veterans, replacing worn-out equipment, or the increase in oil prices from $30 per barrel in 2003 to $111 per barrel in 2008, the actual appropriations for the Iraq war are currently more than $513 billion.

Leaving all future costs aside, and not counting those that have already accrued but have been hidden away in secret intelligence budgets and executive side-deals, let's talk about the $500 billion that is on the books, the undeniable dollars that can't be covered up or disputed by even the most thirsty of Bushie Kool-Aid drinkers.

Most normal folks like you and me really don't comprehend just how much money $500 billion is. When we hear experts tell us that the money we have spent in Iraq would be enough to ensure healthcare for millions of Americans, we get mad and shake our heads at the stupidity of preemptive war with a country that never posed a serious, credible threat to America. But we still don't fully understand the massiveness of such a huge amount of cash. I will attempt to put it in terms that don't require an advanced degree in economics to get a clear grasp on just how much dough we have wasted on this ill-advised foray into nation-building by force of arms.

Iraq has a population of about 27 million people. If all 27 million Iraqis were to each rob an American bank of $19,000-- that would add up to $513 billion.

Of course, most Iraqis have no desire to rob any bank -- especially one that they would have to cross an ocean to hold up. What Mr. Bush has told us to fear is "al-Qaeda in Iraq," a dubious term in that there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq until we invaded, and the group is actually a home-grown club of extremists who just decided to call themselves "al-Qaeda in Iraq". It was the biggest gift they could have given to the Bush Administration.

Nevertheless, when cornered, administration officials and military officers have reluctantly admitted that the number of terrorists belonging to "al-Qaeda in Iraq" or any of its affiliate groups has never been more than five or six thousand people. The rest of the people killing each other are simply Iraqis of different religious persuasions waging jihad amongst themselves in a bloody civil war over long-held prejudices. And then there are those Iraqis who have decided to kill Americans for the very compelling reason that one or more of their family members were killed by Americans. Most in this category simply want the American occupiers to leave their country, and have no intention of "following us home."

So just to make it fair, we will pretend that there are 10,000 "al-Qaeda" terrorists in Iraq, an exaggeration by any estimate. All 10,000 terrorists could have each robbed an American bank of $28,100 -- every single day of all five years of the war-- and that would add up to $513 billion. That's 1,825 consecutive days with 10,000 terrorists stealing a combined total of $281 million every single day.

And that's just what they would have had to steal to match our spending if not one more dollar was spent on this crazy war.

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