According to the latest estimates, the United States government has spent over two hundred and ten billion dollars on the war in Iraq. How do we put that in perspective?
We could divide $210 billion by 300 million Americans. That would tell us that the war has cost $700 for every man, woman, and child in America.
(How about you? Do you personally feel that you have received seven hundred dollars worth of freedom and security thanks to all the bombs we've dropped in Iraq?)
We can also divide the $210 billion by seventy million American taxpayers. That tells us the war has cost $3000 per taxpayer. Are those taxpayers satisfied with the 'freedom' from life and limb that our weapons have brought to so many Iraqi children – or would those taxpayers have preferred to 'selfishly' spend the money on college tuition and health care for their own children?
But maybe Americans don't count. President Bush says we will do 'whatever it takes' to help Iraq, implying that he'd even sacrifice America to save Iraq. Assuming we all agree with that sentiment, what have the Iraqis received – aside from demolished cities – for our $210 billion dollars?
Well, they haven't received enough to eat. A visit to a supermarket will confirm that microwave meals can be purchased for a dollar each, and so it is possible to provide a person with three square meals a day for only three dollars a day. The twenty-five million people of Iraq could be fed on $75 million a day, or $27 billion a year. That's only a small fraction of the $210 billion we've spent on Iraq. Yet, amid the ruins created by our violent occupation, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children are malnourished. Apparently, not even fifteen percent of our money is going toward nation-feeding – let alone 'nation-building.'
Nor has anywhere near the bulk of the spending on the Iraq War gone to our soldiers. Divide $210 billion dollars by 160,000 American soldiers in Iraq, and you see that we're spending $1.3 million per soldier. These are the same soldiers complaining about no air conditioning in 110-degree weather, poor medical care, the lack of body armor, the need to scrounge junkyards for vehicle armor, and a shortage of ammunition. None of our soldiers seem to have even $1300 worth of camping gear, let alone $1.3 million worth of high-tech equipment. And they sure aren't receiving $1.3 million apiece in pay.
(Maybe all those pro-war folks with those 'Support Our Troops' signs should wave them at the Oval Office. That's where their message needs to sink in.)
Perhaps you think that the $210 billion dollars went toward offensive military capability. But it is estimated by President Bush himself that the US military has at most killed only thirty thousand Iraqi insurgents, and if you divide $210 billion dollars by that number, you see that it is costing us $7 million to kill each insurgent. If George Washington had wasted $7 million in logistics to kill each Redcoat, the Continental Congress would have stripped him of command and regarded him as more damaging to the Patriot cause than Benedict Arnold! Today, however, the Bush Administration awards medals to generals who have achieved that astounding level of inefficiency in the Iraq War.
We're assuming, though, the money actually went toward fighting the war. Or does the word 'misappropriation' come to mind?
The Bush Administration admits it may have misappropriated a billion or two in Iraq because of accounting errors. But the scandal is far bigger than that. What about willful, conscious misappropriation – into a swollen federal bureaucracy, Congressional pork-barrel programs, and all those no-bid contracts for corporate political donors? Such practices might be perfectly legal, but still they have the whiff of corruption, do they not?
They also have a whiff of a deeper evil, considering that so many innocents have died for the prosperity of the unscrupulous. And we do have more important matters on which to spend the money – such as, say, a manhunt for real terrorists (Osama, remember him?).
Two hundred and ten billion dollars is a lot of money to spend with nothing positive to show for it. And the Bush Administration has nothing positive to show for the Iraq War. Not in making America safer, not in making Iraq better.
So just exactly where did the money go? It went where taxpayer money dedicated for 'idealistic' purposes often goes: down a fiscal black hole. And thanks to our current leadership, with our national debt already above sixty-five percent of GDP, America itself is rapidly accelerating toward the same event horizon.
For though we have squandered nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars on Iraq, there is no end in sight – unless, it is the end of America itself.
December 17, 2005
Joe Schembrie [send him mail] is an engineer and writer living in Washington.
"Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues!" - Revelation 18:4