The Cost of War in Iraq – Five Years Later

On March 19, 2003, President Bush launched the war with Iraq. The Bush Administration seemed convinced that the Iraq war would be short and easy — with our troops coming home quickly. Five years later, America is bogged down in a war whose costs continue to rise every week and every month — in blood and in treasure.

In the lead-up to the war, President Bush and his Administration sought to define a war that would be short and inexpensive. In early February 2003, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld projected the war in Iraq would not last even half a year, saying “…it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” [2/7/03] Five years later, the war continues — now the second longest war in American history, after the Vietnam War.

In late December 2002, White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels estimated that the cost of the war would be in the “range of $50 billion to $60 billion,” calling earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion too high. [New York Times, 12/31/02] Now, a new analysis by two leading economists estimates that the war will cost at least $3 trillion.

Five years of this badly planned and misguided war has had tremendous costs in human life, our military readiness, the loss of focus on al Qaeda n Afghanistan, and a weakened American economy.


The President's five-year war is taking a grave toll on our troops as deployments continue and our forces and their families grow more stressed. Many servicemen and women are being required to undertake lengthy deployments into the war zone two, three or even four times — placing enormous strain on their families at home. Since the war began, almost 4,000 servicemen and women have been killed and nearly 30,000 have been wounded — many severely, including those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Many thousands more suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when they return home.

Admiral William Fallon (USN), Commander, U.S. Central Command

“…I will certainly tell you that I think that our troops are in need of a change in the deployment cycle. We’ve had too many, from my experience,
of several of our key segments of the troop population — senior NCOs, mid to junior officers — on multiple rotations. I look at my commanders,
and some of them have logged more months in Iraq in the last decade than they have at home by a significant amount.” [Testimony before the House
Armed Services Committee, 3/5/08]

Admiral Eric Olson (USN), Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command

“There is clear stress on the force, in my view, that’s not yet manifested in the data.” [Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, 3/5/08]

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, Jr.

“You’re seeing folks not showing up for deployments.” [USA
Today, 2/19/08

Lt. General William Caldwell IV, Commanding General, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center

“You have a shortage of both majors and captains . . . because we have a larger number make the decision that they have served honorably,
they have had one or two or three combat tours and have made the decision to go into civilian life.”
[Washington Post, 10/11/07]

Lt. General Michael Rochelle, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G1

“…I should mention that it’s clear that the increase in suicide, as well as other measures that we track very, very closely, are a reflection
of the amount of stress that’s on the force.” [Testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/27/08]


Since the start of the war in Iraq, 3,975 brave men and women in uniform have been killed. [Department of Defense, 3/13/08]

An estimated 29,395 servicemembers have been wounded in Iraq and, as of March 1, more than 31,300 have been treated for non-combat injuries and illness. [Department of Defense, 3/13/08;AP, 3/8/08]

Nearly 1.7 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001 — more than 592,000 have been deployed more than once. [Department of Defense, 1/31/08]

According to a report by the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team, soldiers who are on their second, third and fourth deployments report “low morale, more mental health problems, and more stress-related work problems.” [3/6/08]

An estimated 2,100 troops tried to commit suicide or injure themselves last year — up from 350 in 2002. [U.S. News & World Report, 2/25-3/3]

The Army is using “stop-loss authority” to prevent an estimated 8,000 soldiers from leaving the service at the end of their commitment. [Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/26/08]

An estimated three-quarter of a million troops have been discharged since the war in Iraq began — many of whom with compromised mental and physical health. An estimated 260,000 have been treated at veterans' health facilities, nearly 100,000 have been diagnosed as having mental health conditions, and an additional 200,000 have received some level of care from walk-in facilities. [Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, Excerpt:"The Three Trillion Dollar War," 2008]

The Army Reserves is short more than 100 chaplains and the Army National Guard is short 250 chaplains. There are no imams to minister to Muslims in the Army National Guard and Reserve. [USA Today, 2/5/08]

In 2007, the Army deployed at least 79 soldiers who were considered medical “no-gos” from Fort Carson into combat zones. Most were sent to Iraq. Other soldiers from across the country claim similar experiences.[Denver Post,1/29/08]


As a result of the five-year Iraq war, our generals and military leaders are warning that our military is stretched and strained and our country is facing a military readiness crisis the U.S. has not experienced since the end of the Vietnam War more than 30 years ago. In addition, from the beginning of the war, the Bush Administration has placed enormous strain on our National Guard and Reserves — deploying our nation's “strategic reserve” alongside our active-duty Armed Forces with great frequency.

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren

“We are a nation long at war, facing an era of persistent conflict. Our soldiers and families are stretched. We are an Army out of balance.
And we are consuming our readiness as fast as we build it.” [Testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/26/08]

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey

“…the cumulative effects of the last six- plus years at war have left our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight and unable to do
the things we know we need to do to properly sustain our all-volunteer force and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future.”[Testimony
before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/26/08]

Lt. General Michael Rochelle, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G1
“We must reduce deployment lengths from 15 months, increase time spent at home-station between deployments, and provide predictability across all components, if we are to relieve the considerable stress placed on our Army, our soldiers, and our Army families.” [Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, 2/26/08]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen
“Because we’ve got 80 percent of our Special Forces in Central Command, there’s a lot of Special Forces work that they’ve been doing for years in other parts of the world that just isn’t getting done…That builds risk over time, and we have to assess that.” [Boston Globe, 2/27/08]

Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Timothy Keating

“The readiness of our forces is affected by combat operations in Afghanistan
and Iraq…We are at a higher risk state.” [
Globe, 2/27/08

Ret. Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, Commission on the National Guard and Reserves

“We think there is an appalling gap in readiness for homeland defense, because it will be the Guard and reserve that have to respond for these
things.” [
Washington Post, 2/1/08]

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
“I think it is not fair to the state for the federal government to go into a war situation and then to take from us the equipment…Every time our National Guards leave, they take with them equipment but they don’t bring it back. So there’s only so long they can do that.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/25/08]


More than 464,797 servicemembers in the National Guard and Reserves have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 — one quarter
of these brave men and women have been deployed more than once. [Department of Defense, 1/31/08]

88 percent of current and former military officers surveyed by Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for New American Security believe the demands of the Iraq war have “stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.” Sixty percent say the U.S. military is weaker than it was five years ago. [Foreign Policy/Center for New American Security, 2/19/08]

The Army estimates once operations in Iraq and Afghanistan end, it will cost between $12 billion and $13 billion a year for at least two
years to replace, repair and rebuild equipment lost or destroyed in war. [GAO Testimony, 2/14/08]

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel said in its report.” [AP/MSNBC,1/31/08] [GAO Testimony, 2/14/08]


Starting in late 2002, the U.S. military began repositioning military assets out of Afghanistan in order to prepare for a possible invasion of Iraq. Ever since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the U.S. military has been focused on the Iraq conflict and this conflict has absorbed the vast majority of the war-related appropriations sought by the Administration. As a result, the war in Afghanistan and the efforts to completely defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban there have taken a backseat. Indeed, a recent National Intelligence Estimate determined that al Qaeda in Afghanistan is resurgent and is now back to its pre-9/11 strength.

Gen. James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps
“[The Marines] cannot have one foot in Afghanistan and one foot in Iraq.” [Washington Post, 2/2/08]

Lt. Gen. John Sattler (USMC), Director for Strategic Plans & Policy “…the priority now for resources is going towards Iraq at this time…there are some things we could do and, as Admiral Mullen said, we may like to do, we would like to do, but we can’t take those on now until the resource balance shifts, sir.” [Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/14/08]

Karl Inderfurth, Former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs & Ambassador to the U.N.
“…there’s no question that something has to be done to deal with the millstone that Iraq is on Afghanistan, in terms of public perceptions, in terms of funding, in terms of dealing with Afghanistan on its own merits.” [Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/14/08]

Thomas Pickering, Former Undersecretary
of State for Political Affairs & Ambassador to the U.N.

“We say Afghanistan is a critical crossroads. That may be an understatement. Six years of progress is under serious threat from resurgent violence,
weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the people and the country. The U.S.
and the international community have tried to win the struggle with, in our view, too few military, insufficient economic aid, and without a clear
and consistent strategy. We now have to deal with a reconstituted Taliban and Al Qaida, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a runaway opium economy
and severe poverty faced by most Afghans.” [Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1/31/08]


It has been 2,375 days since the September 11th attacks — Osama bin Laden remains free.

More than 480 brave U.S. servicemembers have been killed and nearly 1,900 have been wounded in Afghanistan since October 2001. [Department of Defense, 3/8/08]

The Afghanistan Study Group, chaired by retired General James Jones and former UN Ambassador Thomas Pickering, released a report in January warning that “urgent changes are required now to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a failing or failed state.” [AFP, 1/30/08]

Mike McConnell, the National Intelligence Director, testified in February that Afghanistan's President Hamid Zarzai and his government control just one-third of the country — the remaining majority is under the control of either the Taliban or local tribes. [AP, 2/28/08]

According to a report released by the United Nations, “insurgent and terrorist violence in Afghanistan increased sharply in 2007, with over 8,000 conflict-related deaths and an average of 566 incidents per month.” [AP, 3/10/08]


The five-year war in Iraq has also weakened the American economy. It has led to a spike in oil prices; has resulted in massive borrowing by the U.S. government; and has diverted funds that should have been invested in such priorities as R&D, education and infrastructure here at home, which stimulate economic growth.

Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University professor & winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics
Linda Bilmes, Harvard University professor & budget expert
“[The cost to the U.S. economy]comes in two major forms. First, the war has diverted government expenditures from schools, roads, research and other areas that would have stimulated the economy in the short run and produced stronger economic growth in the long run. We have the financed the war with deficits, and the higher deficits, too, will impose a long-run burden on the economy. Second, higher oil prices, in large measure a consequence of the war, have weakened the American economy. A realistic but conservative estimate for the war's macro-economic impact is roughly $1.9 trillion.” [Excerpt, "The Three Trillion Dollar War," 2008]

Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University professor & winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics
Linda Bilmes, Harvard University professor & budget expert
“There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can't spent $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.” [Washington Post op-ed, 3/9/08]

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's
“The short-term economic consequences of the war have been manageable and modest. But the long-term consequences will be substantial.” [Reuters, 3/13/08]

Comptroller General David Walker
“The Iraqis have a budget surplus. We have a huge budget deficit.” [Testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, 3/11/08]

Ernest P. Goss, Creighton University
economics professor

“The [money we are spending yearly in Iraq] is roughly the size of the incentive stimulus package being moved through Congress right now.
So it is hard to argue that it is insignificant if it is the size of our stimulus package… Investment in cancer research, certainly federal
programs like health and education, would rise in terms of spending [if the money was not being spent in Iraq].” [1/30/08]


Contrary to the notion that war spending bolsters the economy, Robert Reischauer, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said recently that the domestic benefits of war spending have been “muted” because spending is “stimulating economies elsewhere, not the least being the economies of Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.” [Reuters, 3/13/08]

Between fiscal years 2001 and 2008, Congress appropriated nearly $700 billion for the global war on terrorism. The majority of this amount has been provided for DOD military operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including the cost of equipping, maintaining and supporting our deployed forces. [Comptroller General David Walker, Testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, 3/11/08]

More than $45 billion has been spent on reconstruction contracts in Iraq. [AP, 3/11/08]

The cost of the Iraq war broken down [Congressional Research Service,

Per Second: $3,919
Per Minute: $235,160
Per Hour: $14,109,589
Per Day: $338,630,137
Per Week: $2,400,000,000
Per Month: $10,300,000,000
Per Year: $123,600,000,000

This entry was posted in Iraq & Afghanistan, Oversight, Real Security. Bookmark the permalink.