Iraq Money Down the Rat Hole

What can you get for a trillion bucks? Or make that $1.6 trillion, if you take the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as tallied by the majority staff of Congress' Joint Economic Committee (JEC).

Or is it the $3.5 trillion figure cited by Ron Paul, when expressing concern about the true cost of this war.

Given that the overall defense budget is now double what it was when Bush's father presided over the end of the Cold War, at a time when we don't have a militarily sophisticated enemy in sight, you have to wonder how this president has managed to exceed Cold War spending levels. What has he gotten for the trillions wasted? Nothing, when it comes to capturing Osama bin Laden, bringing democracy to Iraq or preventing oil prices from tripling and enriching the ayatollahs of Iran, while messing up the American economy.

But that money could have paid for a lot of things we could have used here at home. As Paul points out, for what the Iraq war costs, we could present each family of four a check for $46,000.

On the matter of covering the medically uninsured in America, it should be pointed out that we are the lone industrialized nation which can't afford to covered 47 million uninsured Americans.

[Excerpt of an article by Robert Scheer, Yahoo News]


Suffer the Children

According to a report by aid agency Save the Children, “Iraq’s child mortality rate has increased by a staggering 150 per cent since 1990, more than any other country.”

The report said that some 122,000 Iraqi children - the equivalent of one in eight - died in 2005, before reaching their fifth birthday. More than half of the deaths were among newborn babies in their first month of life.

“Since 2003, electricity shortages, insufficient clean water, deteriorating health services and soaring inflation have worsened already difficult living conditions.”

The study listed pneumonia and diarrhoea as major killers of children in Iraq, together accounting for over 30 per cent of child deaths.

“Conservative estimates place increases in infant mortality following the 2003 invasion of Iraq at 37 per cent,” it said.

Experts draw parallels between the dire state of Iraq’s health care system today and the way it was when the country was under sanctions during the 1990s, when there was a similar limited supply of drugs and other medical resources.

[Excerpt of article by Hind al-Safar, IWPR contributor in Baghdad]


George Bush Big Government Spender

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is “a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.

When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending — or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs — shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush’s first six years, Slivinski calculates, topping the 1.9 percent of Ronald Reagan.

Discretionary spending went up in Bush's first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation, more than twice as much as Bill Clinton did (21.6 percent) in two full terms, Slivinski reports.

Defense spending: Under Bush it's grown on average by 5.7 percent a year. Under LBJ — who had a war to fund, too — it rose by 4.9 percent a year. Both numbers are adjusted for inflation.

Including costs for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending under Bush has gone up 86 percent since 2001, according to Chris Hellman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Current annual defense spending — not counting war costs — is 25 percent above the height of the Reagan-era buildup, Hellman said.

[McClatchy Newspapers]


Other Uses for the $611 Billion Spent on Iraq

The Boston Globe has taken a unique view of the latest Iraq War funding request, offering a look at what the $611.5 billion that would be spent so far on the war could buy if it was not used for the military operation.
Among the findings:

"According to World Bank estimates, $54 billion a year would eliminate starvation and malnutrition globally by 2015,

"...while $30 billion would provide a year of primary education for every child on earth.

At the upper range of those estimates, the $611 billion cost of the war could have fed and educated the world's poor for seven years.

Additional applications:

The $611 billion in war costs is 17 times the amount vetoed by the president for a $35 billion health plan for the States.

• $611 billion translates into almost 14 million free years of education at Harvard University.

[Excerpt of article by Joe Strupp, The Boston Globe]


Iraq “a human tragedy”, says Red Cross

The hundreds of thousands of people missing in Iraq are just the tip of the country’s looming humanitarian crisis, the International Red Cross warned today.

Around 375,000 of the population have vanished due to continued fighting, sectarian, ethnic, and religious violence and forced displacement, said Karl Matley, outgoing head of the Iraqi branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A report called 'Humanitarian Tragedy in Iraq' said the missing included tens of thousands who were held in the custody of Iraqi authorities and the multinational forces.

The Geneva-based independent humanitarian organisation works to protect the lives of victims of war and internal violence also highlighted the issue of detainees in Iraqi jails, which exceed 60,000 prisoners. The ICRC has been allowed to visit “only a small portion” of them, he said, without providing the number.

[Evening Echo]


A 2 point 4 Trillion Dollar War

The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could total $2.4 trillion through the next decade, or nearly $8,000 per man, woman and child in the country, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.

A previous CBO estimate put the wars' costs at more than $1.6 trillion. This one adds $705 billion in interest, taking into account that the conflicts are being funded with borrowed money.

"The number is so big, it boggles the mind," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.

The CBO estimates assume that 75,000 troops will remain in both countries through 2017, including roughly 50,000 in Iraq. That is a "very speculative" projection, though it's not entirely unreasonable, said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the non-partisan Lexington Institute.

As of Sept. 30, the two wars have cost $604 billion, the CBO says. Adjusted for inflation, that is higher than the costs of the Korea and Vietnam conflicts, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.



U.S. unlikely to halt Pakistan aid

For six years, the United States has staunchly supported Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, choosing to back a military leader seen as a strong ally in the "war on terror" rather than push the general more forcefully for democratic reforms.

But the risks associated with that strategy have become increasingly apparent in recent months, as Al Qaeda and the Taliban have gained strength in Pakistan's northwest frontier area despite billions of dollars in military aid to Musharraf's government since the Sept. 11 attacks.

That funding is Washington's main source of leverage over Musharraf. But officials said that it would be risky for the United States to withhold such aid to pressure Musharraf to reverse the emergency powers he decreed Saturday, acknowledging that the United States is dependent on Pakistan and can't afford to alienate its leadership.

The United States is likely to continue to scold Musharraf but not impose significant sanctions.

[Excerpt of article by Greg Miller, LA Times]


US spent $43.5 billion on intel in 2007

The U.S. government spent $43.5 billion on intelligence in 2007, according to the first official disclosure under a new law implementing recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.

How the money is divided among the 16 intelligence agencies and exactly what it is spent on is classified. It includes salaries for about 100,000 people, multibillion dollar secret satellite programs, aircraft, weapons, electronic sensors, intelligence analysts, spies, computers and software.

For comparison, last year's intelligence spending was about half the $91 billion President Bush is proposing to spend over the coming year on the Agriculture Department, and somewhat more than the $35 billion budget of the Homeland Security Department.

National security analysts outside the government usually estimate the annual budget at about 10 percent of the total U.S. defense budget, which in 2007 was about $430 billion plus nearly $200 billion in war spending. These analysts believe around 80 percent of the intelligence budget is consumed by the NRO, NSA, DIA and NGA, the national military intelligence agencies.