Iraq War Costs Could Hit Nearly $3 Trillion by 2050: Report

The Costs of War Project said the U.S.-led invasion and occupation "caused massive death, destruction, and political instability," killing hundreds of thousands of people while displacing millions more.

Posted on

The Costs of War Project said the U.S.-led invasion and occupation “caused massive death, destruction, and political instability,” killing hundreds of thousands of people while displacing millions more.

by Brett Wilkins

As the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq approaches, a leading research institute on Wednesday said that "the total costs of the war in Iraq and Syria are expected to exceed half a million human lives and $2.89 trillion" by 2050.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs said that "this budgetary figure includes costs to date, estimated at about $1.79 trillion, and the costs of veterans’ care through 2050."

According to the project:

March 19-20, 2023 marks 20 years since United States forces invaded Iraq to oust dictator Saddam Hussein, under the false claim that his regime was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. The ensuing war, in which U.S. ground presence peaked in 2007 with over 170,000 soldiers, caused massive death, destruction, and political instability in Iraq. Among the consequences was the increase of sectarian politics, widespread violence, and the rise of the Islamic State militant group with its terror attacks throughout the Middle East.

Though the US government officially ended its Iraq War in 2011, the repercussions of the invasion and occupation as well as subsequent and ongoing military interventions have had an enormous human, social, economic, and environmental toll. An estimated 300,000 people have died from direct war violence in Iraq, while the reverberating effects of war continue to kill and sicken hundreds of thousands more.

The new report includes estimates for Syria, which the United States began bombing during the Obama administration after Islamic State militants rose to power amid the destabilization and power vacuum caused by the Iraq invasion and Syrian civil war. Including Syria, the Costs of War Project says between 550,000-580,000 people have been killed since March 2003, and "several times as many may have died due to indirect causes such as preventable diseases."

"More than 7 million people from Iraq and Syria are currently refugees, and nearly 8 million people are internally displaced in the two countries," the publication notes.

University of Oxford professor and Costs of War Project co-director Neta C. Crawford, who authored the report, said in a statement that "the Bush administration was convinced and assured the American people and the world that the war would have few casualties of all kinds – civilian and military – and would lead to quick victory."

"As the Costs of War Project has documented consistently, these optimistic assumptions are confronted by a record of death, high and ongoing costs, and regional devastation," she added.

Those ongoing costs include a recent $397.5 million budget request from the Biden administration to fight what’s left of Islamic State.

Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

31 thoughts on “Iraq War Costs Could Hit Nearly $3 Trillion by 2050: Report”

  1. I can remember sitting in my French revolution class listening to my professor (who spent over 20 years living in France with felllow socialists) assure the class that the war would enable the occupied to see how “democracy” works and the Western influence would cause them to hold elections and women would not be wearing anything on their faces.
    Oh the promises of the foolish. It kind of reminded me of the beliefs of Brits and French who colonized that region (my Canadian industrial revolution professor who taught from his Marxist perspective really was upset with the Brits colonial system ;-)
    Somehow my classmates from that part of the world did not share that view despite some of their hopes; the guy who was 26 or 27th in line of the throne of UAE or somewhere, was sure nothing would change but the gals who fluttered around him did have hopes of change.
    But here we are Trillions of dollars later.
    I blame it all on the Brits for colonizing it then having their foot soldiers (mafia reference ;-) in the rorm of the US to keep the West running things after all these years…

    1. With roots in the “Unnecessary War” that Pat Buchannan documents in his book, how US working class young men were the “foot soldiers” for, what is now, the “Anglo” banking/international trade empire, an extension of the British “Great Game” of the 1800’s, the next stage being played out today

      1. My Canadian self-described Communist industrial revolution history professor would wholeheartedly agree with you.
        The Caribbean slave trade and British colonialism was at least half of the class’s focus.

      2. Another memory, a old English saying: “we grow our bread on the bones of our sons” (from a econ class; you got to study war and it’s connectivity to economies to understand economic thought)
        “After Waterloo, the bones of the dead — Wellington’s Britons and Napoleon’s French and Blücher’s Prussians — were freighted back to Hull to use as fertiliser for England’s green and pleasant land, military mulch from the 1815 battlefields which also yielded fresh teeth to be reused as dentures for the living.
        Robert Fisk in The Independent, 3 August 2014”

  2. War! What is it good for? Imagine the good that would have come from those trillions spent on the infrastructure, healthcare, education in the U.S. I am not alone in imagining that.

  3. As the brilliant political scientist Dr. Michael Parenti said decades ago, they’ll spend any amount of our money to make money for themselves. Our money was and will be used for all this, but the military/industrial complex and those who benefit the most from U.S. empire are the only ones who will make money from it.

  4. In the meantime, the homeless encampment in my city (and all across America) grows ever larger. Priorities, am I right?

    And why don’t we start a catastrophic world war while we are at it? The neocon disease must be stopped.

  5. “the sale of Iraq’s oil will pay for the rebuilding of Iraq after we destroy Iraq”
    ……. Donald Rumsfeld
    famous last words

    1. Yeah, and we saw how much good that did. I’m glad that so many people got into the streets and protested against that (or any other) war, but the psychos who run this world don’t care about what the people think or want, they just lust after money and power.

  6. I remember Bush said the oil would pay for the war. I guess that was just another whopper.

    1. So Cheney intended to steal Iraq’s oil to pay for the immoral and illegal U.S. invasion and occupation? Boy, General Smedley Butler sure was right almost 100 years ago when he said that the U.S. is just an oversized crime syndicate when it comes to foreign relations.

  7. $3 trillion dollars for absolutely nothing good in return?
    Plus tons of innocent people killed?
    Ahhh…representative democracy with the masses getting their information from the Main Stream Media.
    You can’t beat it.

    (Solution? Direct democracy and the masses ignoring the MSM.)

      1. Still stealing Syria’s oil too.

        I really wish we actually had planetary rule of law like the U.S. says it wants, these criminals would be in prison where they belong (and so would the leaders of many if not most countries, but the U.S. is the worst).

    1. In order to have direct democracy, we need much lower population and probably a much smaller country, both of which would be very good things for many reasons, not just elections.

      Representative government doesn’t have to be this bad. Replacing our winner-take-all system with proportional representation, eliminating all private campaign financing, providing equal TV time for all candidates, and replacing executive branches of government with a parliamentary system, would provide a much more representative government than we have. Add a choice on our tax returns to for what percentage of our taxes go to which government actions (military, education, Fish & Wildlife, etc.) and our government would be as representative as it could be without having direct democracy, which as I said isn’t possible with our gross overpopulation and overly large country.

      1. Republics are a symbiosis of money/power, government/business with both factions exchanging what the other needs for more money/power. It’s always been that way.

        1. Maybe, I honestly don’t know one way or the other. What I do know is that all these problems are caused by human overpopulation and the resulting civilizations. That‘s the root of the problem, the rest are just symptoms.

          1. Every environmental problem is related to TOO MANY PEOPLE. But, until people stop breeding large families, it will only get worse. Every human born is a polluter, starting with diapers. And, centralization of power is the way all governments work toward; all roads lead to fascism, which is a system of government/business used to prey on the masses. But, in real fascism, the state controls business; in the USA business controls government through lobbying and campaign contributions; i.e. crony capitalism. Socialism, as seen in Russia also led to red fascism under Stalin.

          2. Looks like we agree on overpopulation. It’s the biggest, most important, and worst problem on the planet, along with human overconsumption/harmful lifestyles.

            In fascism the corporations control the government. Communism is where the government controls the corporations. In that way those two systems are exact opposites.

            My point is that with this many people and this large of a country, representative government is as good as it gets, unless we could magically get a wise & benevolent dictator. I get Troy’s and your point, but what alternative is there? Troy advocated direct democracy, which as I said isn’t possible under these conditions.

          3. There are no corps. in communism. The state controls everything. That’s why communism is a failed system.

          4. There could be corporations in communism, but regardless of what the companies are called, the government owns the means of production.

      2. Please post a link to unbiased, scientific proof that it is IMPOSSIBLE (your word) for a nation as large/populated as America is, to have direct democracy?

        Representative democracy was necessary before the technology was available for average voters to be able to vote on all Bills/Laws in a timely matter.
        That limitation no longer exists.

        There is simply no need for a bunch of corrupt losers to represent the voters any longer.

        1. With anywhere near this many people creating this complicated of a society, there’s no way for everyone to be able to spend the time to try to learn the issues, write the legislation, and vote on every bill. If everyone did that, there would be no one left to do anything else. I get your point about technology, but the last direct democracy I know of in civilization was Ancient Greece, where only the rich were citizens allowed to vote (i.e., small population). High tech alone won’t solve this problem.

  8. The war was a great success. The Americans obeyed Israel’s orders and destroyed an Arab country. Some rich Americans got a lot richer.

    Pretty good deal for $3trillion.

    (Ordinary Americans got screwed out of the cash, and a million or so ordinary Iraqis got killed, but who cares about them?)

Comments are closed.