The cost of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion after factoring in long-term healthcare for wounded US veterans, rebuilding a worn-down military, and accounting for other unforeseen bills and economic losses, according to a new analysis to be presented today in Boston.
[..]The figure is more than four times what the war was expected to cost through 2006 -- around $500 billion, according to congressional budget data.
The new study is billed as a detailed analysis not only of the potential costs of sustaining the operation in Iraq for at least several more years, but also the expenses likely to be incurred by taxpayers long after US troops withdraw.
I'm pretty good at math, but I cannot conceive a number that high. What a horrible, tragic waste, first and foremost in lives--both Iraqi and American--but also in potential of what we could have done with that money. To wit...
The way to come to grips with $1.2 trillion is to forget about the number itself and think instead about what you could buy with the money. When you do that, a trillion stops sounding anything like millions or billions.
For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign - a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children's lives.
Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn't use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.
The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place - better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation - could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban's recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.
All that would be one way to spend $1.2 trillion. Here would be another:
The war in Iraq.