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The costs of war 11, March 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Middle East.
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The cost of war is usually discussed in terms of the costs in terms of human lives; of the soldiers and civilians. However, how much does the Iraq war cost in dollars and cents? The answer, it seems, is a scarcely believable number. 

Tom Engelhardt compares the true cost of the war with what the Bush administration thought that it was going to cost at the beginning. Their estimates, Engelhardt reports ranged from $60 billion up to $200 billion (though the economic adviser who came up with this huge figure was soon looking for a new job).  

Alas these figures are ‘some way’ out, in much the same way that Pluto is ‘some way’ away from the sun. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has calculated that the war will cost at minimum $3 trillion and most likely, factoring in future costs, up to $5-7 trillion. Tom then nicely points out that “Bush administration was at [very] least $2,940,000,000,000 off in its calculations.”

Another article which is quoted by Engelhardt is from William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. He comes up with some interesting figures and concludes that the war is costing some $3.5 billion per week. Yes, that was $3.5 billion, per week. He goes on to break the costs down to manageable chunks, but first gives it a sense of proportion.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)*                    => $400 Million per year     => <1 day’s costs in Iraq

US spending on finding and securing loose nuclear weapons     =>  $1 Billion per year          => <2 day’s costs in Iraq

US spending on global warming                                                     => $7 Billion per year            => 2 week’s costs in Iraq 

(*This accounts for all the spending by the entire international community on the IAEA – the major international body whose job it is to regulate and keep a track on nuclear activity around the world.) 

Hartung then gives a few examples of the weekly material costs of the war.

$1.5 million for M-4 carbines (about 900 guns per week);
$2.3 million for machine guns (about 170 per week);
$4.3 million for Hellfire missiles (about 50 missiles per week);
$6.9 million for night vision devices (about 2,100 per week);
$10.8 million for fuel per week;
$5 million to store and transport that fuel per week;
$14.8 million for F-18E/F fighter planes per week (one every four weeks);
$23.4 million for ammunition per week;
$30.7 million for Bradley fighting vehicles (10 per week).