July 6, 2004
The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War
A Study by the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy In Focus
Complete report available here.
I. Costs to the United States
A. Human Costs
U.S. Military Deaths: Between the start of war on March 19, 2003,
and June 16, 2004, 952 coalition forces were killed, including 836 U.S.
military. Of the total, 693 were killed after President Bush declared
the end of combat operations on May 1, 2003. Over 5,134 U.S. troops have
been wounded since the war began, including 4,593 since May 1, 2003.
Contractor Deaths: Estimates range from 50 to 90 civilian contractors,
missionaries, and civilian worker deaths. Of these, 36 were identified
Journalist Deaths: Thirty international media workers have been
killed in Iraq, including 21 since President Bush declared the end of
combat operations. Eight of the dead worked for U.S. companies.
B. Security Costs
Terrorist Recruitment and Action: According to the London-based
International Institute for Strategic Studies, al-Qaeda's membership is
now at 18,000, with 1,000 active in Iraq. A former CIA analyst and State
Department official has documented 390 deaths and 1,892 injuries due to
terrorist attacks in 2003. In addition, there were 98 suicide attacks
around the world in 2003, more than any year in contemporary history.
Low U.S. Credibility: Polls reveal that the war has damaged the
U.S. government's standing and credibility in the world. Surveys in eight
European and Arab countries demonstrated broad public agreement that the
war has hurt, rather than helped, the war on terrorism. At home, 54 percent
of Americans polled by the Annenberg Election Survey felt that "the situation
in Iraq was not worth going to war over."
Military Mistakes: A number of former military officials have
criticized the war, including retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, former
commander of the U.S. Central Command, who has charged that by manufacturing
a false rationale for war, abandoning traditional allies, propping up
and trusting Iraqi exiles, and failing to plan for post-war Iraq, the
Bush Administration made the United States less secure.
Low Troop Morale and Lack of Equipment: A March 2004 army survey
found 52 percent of soldiers reporting low morale, and three-fourths reporting
they were poorly led by their officers. Lack of equipment has been an
ongoing problem. The Army did not fully equip soldiers with bullet-proof
vests until June 2004, forcing many families to purchase them out of their
Loss of First Responders: National Guard troops make up almost
one-third of the U.S. Army troops now in Iraq. Their deployment puts a
particularly heavy burden on their home communities because many are "first
responders," including police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel.
For example, 44 percent of the country's police forces have lost officers
to Iraq. In some states, the absence of so many Guard troops has raised
concerns about the ability to handle natural disasters.
Use of Private Contractors: An estimated 20,000 private contractors
are carrying out work in Iraq traditionally done by the military, despite
the fact that they often lack sufficient training and are not accountable
to the same guidelines and reviews as military personnel.
C. Economic Costs
The Bill So Far: Congress has already approved of $126.1 billion
for Iraq and an additional $25 billion is heading towards Congressional
approval, for a total of $151.1 billion through this year. Congressional
leaders have promised an additional supplemental appropriation after the
Long-term Impact on U.S. Economy: Economist Doug Henwood has estimated
that the war bill will add up to an average of at least $3,415 for every
U.S. household. Another economist, James Galbraith of the University of
Texas, predicts that while war spending may boost the economy initially,
over the long term it is likely to bring a decade of economic troubles,
including an expanded trade deficit and high inflation.
Oil Prices: Gas prices topped $2 a gallon in May 2004, a development
that most analysts attribute at least in part to the deteriorating situation
in Iraq. According to a mid-May CBS survey, 85 percent of Americans said
they had been affected measurably by higher gas prices. According to one
estimate, if crude oil prices stay around $40 a barrel for a year, U.S.
gross domestic product will decline by more than $50 billion.
Economic Impact on Military Families: Since the beginning of the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 364,000 reserve troops and National Guard
soldiers have been called for military service, serving tours of duty
that often last 20 months. Studies show that between 30 and 40 percent
of reservists and National Guard members earn a lower salary when they
leave civilian employment for military deployment. Army Emergency Relief
has reported that requests from military families for food stamps and
subsidized meals increased "several hundred percent" between 2002 and
D. Social Costs
U.S. Budget and Social Programs: The Bush administration's combination
of massive spending on the war and tax cuts for the wealthy means less
money for social spending. The $151.1 billion expenditure for the war
through this year could have paid for: close to 23 million housing vouchers;
health care for over 27 million uninsured Americans; salaries for nearly
3 million elementary school teachers; 678,200 new fire engines; over 20
million Head Start slots for children; or health care coverage for 82
million children. Instead, the administration's FY 2005 budget request
proposes deep cuts in critical domestic programs and virtually freezes
funding for domestic discretionary programs other than homeland security.
Federal spending cuts will deepen the budget crises for local and state
governments, which are expected to suffer a $6 billion shortfall in 2005.
Social Costs to the Military: Thus far, the Army has extended
the tours of duty of 20,000 soldiers. These extensions have been particularly
difficult for reservists, many of whom never expected to face such long
separations from their jobs and families. According to military policy,
reservists are not supposed to be on assignment for more than 12 months
every 5-6 years. To date, the average tour of duty for all soldiers in
Iraq has been 320 days. A recent Army survey revealed that more than half
of soldiers said they would not re-enlist.
Costs to Veteran Health Care: About 64 percent of the more than
5,000 U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq received wounds that prevented them
from returning to duty. One trend has been an increase in amputees, the
result of improved body armor that protects vital organs but not extremities.
As in previous wars, many soldiers are likely to have received ailments
that will not be detected for years to come. The Veterans Administration
healthcare system is not prepared for the swelling number of claims. In
May, the House of Representatives approved funding for FY 2005 that is
$2.6 billion less than needed, according to veterans' groups.
Mental Health Costs: A December 2003 Army report was sharply critical
of the military's handling of mental health issues. It found that more
than 15 percent of soldiers in Iraq screened positive for traumatic stress,
7.3 percent for anxiety, and 6.9 percent for depression. The suicide rate
among soldiers increased from an eight-year average of 11.9 per 100,000
to 15.6 per 100,000 in 2003. Almost half of soldiers surveyed reported
not knowing how to obtain mental health services.
II. Costs to Iraq
A. Human Costs
Iraqi Deaths and Injuries: As of June 16, 2004, between 9,436
and 11,317 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of the U.S. invasion
and ensuing occupation, while an estimated 40,000 Iraqis have been injured.
During "major combat" operations, between 4,895 and 6,370 Iraqi soldiers
and insurgents were killed.
Effects of Depleted Uranium: The health impacts of the use of
depleted uranium weaponry in Iraq are yet to be known. The Pentagon estimates
that U.S. and British forces used 1,100 to 2,200 tons of weaponry made
from the toxic and radioactive metal during the March 2003 bombing campaign.
Many scientists blame the far smaller amount of DU weapons used in the
Persian Gulf War for illnesses among U.S. soldiers, as well as a sevenfold
increase in child birth defects in Basra in Southern Iraq.
B. Security Costs
Rise in Crime: Murder, rape, and kidnapping have skyrocketed since
March 2003, forcing Iraqi children to stay home from school and women
to stay off the streets at night. Violent deaths rose from an average
of 14 per month in 2002 to 357 per month in 2003.
Psychological Impact: Living under occupation without the most
basic security has devastated the Iraqi population. A poll by the U.S.
Coalition Provisional Authority in May 2004 found that 80 percent of Iraqis
say they have "no confidence" in either the U.S. civilian authorities
or in the coalition forces, and 55 percent would feel safer if U.S. and
other foreign troops left the country immediately.
C. The Economic Costs
Unemployment: Iraqi joblessness doubled from 30 percent before
the war to 60 percent in the summer of 2003. While the Bush administration
now claims that unemployment has dropped, only 1 percent of Iraq's workforce
of 7 million is involved in reconstruction projects.
Corporate War Profiteering: Most of Iraq's reconstruction has
been contracted out to U.S. companies, rather than experienced Iraqi firms.
Top contractor Halliburton is being investigated for charging $160 million
for meals that were never served to troops and $61 million in cost overruns
on fuel deliveries. Halliburton employees also took $6 million in kickbacks
from subcontractors, while other employees have reported extensive waste,
including the abandonment of $85,000 trucks because they had flat tires.
Iraq's Oil Economy: Anti-occupation violence has prevented Iraq
from capitalizing on its oil assets. There have been an estimated 130
attacks on Iraq's oil infrastructure. In 2003, Iraq's oil production dropped
to 1.33 million barrels per day, down from 2.04 million in 2002.
Health Infrastructure: After more than a decade of crippling sanctions,
Iraq's health facilities were further damaged during the war and post-invasion
looting. Iraq's hospitals continue to suffer from lack of supplies and
an overwhelming number of patients.
Education: UNICEF estimates that more than 200 schools were destroyed
in the conflict and thousands more were looted in the chaos following
the fall of Saddam Hussein. Largely because of security concerns, school
attendance in April 2004 was well below pre-war levels.
Environment: The U.S-led attack damaged water and sewage systems
and the country's fragile desert ecosystem. It also resulted in oil well
fires that spewed smoke across the country and left unexposed ordnance
that continues to endanger the Iraqi people and environment. Mines and
unexploded ordnance cause an estimated 20 casualties per month.
Human Rights Costs: Even with Saddam Hussein overthrown, Iraqis
continue to face human rights violations from occupying forces. In addition
to the widely publicized humiliation and abuse of prisoners, the U.S.
military is investigating the deaths of 34 detainees as a result of interrogation
Sovereignty Costs: Despite the proclaimed "transfer of sovereignty"
to Iraq, the country will continue to be occupied by U.S. and coalition
troops and have severely limited political and economic independence.
The interim government will not have the authority to reverse the nearly
100 orders by CPA head Paul Bremer that, among other things, allow for
the privatization of Iraq's state-owned enterprises and prohibit preferences
for domestic firms in reconstruction.
III. Costs to the World
Human Costs: While Americans make up the vast majority of military
and contractor personnel in Iraq, other U.S.-allied "coalition" troops
have suffered 116 war casualties in Iraq. In addition, the focus on Iraq
has diverted international resources and attention away from humanitarian
crises such as in Sudan.
International Law: The unilateral U.S. decision to go to war in
Iraq violated the United Nations Charter, setting a dangerous precedent
for other countries to seize any opportunity to respond militarily to
claimed threats, whether real or contrived, that must be "pre-empted."
The U.S. military has also violated the Geneva Convention, making it more
likely that in the future, other nations will ignore these protections
in their treatment of civilian populations and detainees.
The United Nations: At every turn, the Bush administration has
attacked the legitimacy and credibility of the UN, undermining the institution's
capacity to act in the future as the centerpiece of global disarmament
and conflict resolution. The recent efforts of the Bush administration
to gain UN acceptance of an Iraqi government that was not elected but
rather installed by occupying forces undermines the entire notion of national
sovereignty as the basis for the UN Charter.
Coalitions: Faced with opposition in the UN Security Council,
the U.S. government attempted to create the illusion of multilateral support
for the war by pressuring other governments to join a so-called "Coalition
of the Willing." This not only circumvented UN authority, but also undermined
democracy in many coalition countries, where public opposition to the
war was as high as 90 percent.
Global Economy: The $151.1 billion spent by the U.S. government
on the war could have cut world hunger in half and covered HIV/AIDS medicine,
childhood immunization and clean water and sanitation needs of the developing
world for more than two years. As a factor in the oil price hike, the
war has created concerns of a return to the "stagflation" of the 1970s.
Already, the world's major airlines are expecting an increase in costs
of $1 billion or more per month.
Global Security: The U.S.-led war and occupation have galvanized
international terrorist organizations, placing people not only in Iraq
but around the world at greater risk of attack. The State Department's
annual report on international terrorism reported that in 2003 there was
the highest level of terror-related incidents deemed "significant" than
at any time since the U.S. began issuing these figures.
Global Environment: U.S.-fired depleted uranium weapons have contributed
to pollution of Iraq's land and water, with inevitable spillover effects
in other countries. The heavily polluted Tigris River, for example, flows
through Iraq, Iran and Kuwait.
Human Rights: The Justice Department memo assuring the White House
that torture was legal stands in stark violation of the International
Convention Against Torture (of which the United States is a signatory).
This, combined with the widely publicized mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners
by U.S. intelligence officials, gave new license for torture and mistreatment
by governments around the world.