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Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War

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We talk to Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies on a new report examining the costs of the Iraq invasion.[includes transcript]

The Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy In Focus just released a new study titled ”PAYING THE PRICE: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War” that examines the costs of the war and occupation in terms of lives, the increased military budget demands and the stripping of the domestic budget.

We are joined by the study’s author Phyllis Bennis. Among the report’s findings:

  • Total number of coalition military deaths between the start of war and June 16, 2004: 952 (853 U.S.)
  • Of those 952, the number killed after President George W. Bush declared “an end to combat operations” on May 1, 2003: 693
  • Number of U.S. troops wounded since the war began: 5,134
  • Number of U.S. troops wounded since President George W. Bush declared “an end to combat operations” on May 1, 2003: 4,593
  • Number of civilian contractors, missionaries, and civilian workers killed: 50-90
  • Number of international media workers killed in Iraq: 30 (21 since the “end of combat operations”)
  • Iraqi civilians killed: 9,436 to 11,317
  • Iraqi civilians injured: 40,000 (est.)
  • Iraqi soldiers and insurgents killed prior to “end of combat operations” May 1, 2003: 4,895 to 6,370
  • The bill so far: $126.1 billion
  • Additional amount to cover operations through 2004: $25 billion
  • What $151 billion could have paid for in the U.S.: Housing vouchers: 23 million
  • Health care for uninsured Americans: 27 mil.
  • Salaries for elementary school teachers: 3 mil.
  • New fire engines: 678,200
  • Head Start slots: 20 million
  • Estimated long-term cost of war to every U.S. household: $3,415
  • Amount contractor Halliburton is alleged to have charged for meals never served to troops and for cost overruns on fuel deliveries: $221 million
  • Kickbacks received by Halliburton employees from subcontractors: $6 million
  • Percentage of Americans who now feel that “the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over.”: 54
  • Percentage of Iraqis who said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign troops left the country immediately: 55
  • Percentage of U.S. soldiers in Iraq reporting low morale: 52
  • Percentage of soldiers who said they would not re- enlist: 50
  • Percentage of wounded unable to return to duty: 64
  • Number of soldiers whose tours of duty have been extended by the Army: 20,000
  • Percentage of reserve troops who earn lower salaries while on deployment: 30-40
  • Fraction of National Guard troops among U.S. force now in Iraq: 1/3
  • Percentage of U.S. police departments missing officers due to Iraq deployments: 44
  • Effect on al Qaeda of the Iraq war, according to International Institute for Strategic Studies: “Accelerated recruitment”
  • Estimated number of al Qaeda terrorists as of May 2004: 18,000 with 1,000 active in Iraq
  • Percentage of Iraqis expressing “no confidence” in U.S. civilian authorities or coalition forces: 80
  • Iraq’s oil production in 2002: 2.04 mil. barrels/day
  • Iraq’s oil production in 2003: 1.33 mil. barrels/day
  • Price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. in May 2004: more than $2

The full report is online here

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Institute for Policy Studies in Washington has just come out with a report called “Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War.” We’re joined now by IPS Fellow, Phyllis Bennis. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Phyllis.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Good to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you lay out these costs?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: We have been very concerned that we’re paying such a high price for failure in Iraq. More and more people, I think, are becoming aware of the number of U.S. troops that have been killed. The body count is the one number that remains high in American consciousness. We know that as of two days ago when we issued the report, the number of U.S. soldiers dead was already 853. It’s now higher than that. There’s been more every day. But other costs are not as clearly known. So, for example, the cost to — in Iraqi lives is not commonly known. The fact that more than ten times as many Iraqi civilians as U.S. soldiers have been killed is not widely known. That body count ranges — the estimates are difficult to pin down, but the lowest estimate is 9,436 Iraqis killed in that same period. People in this country get access to very little information about, for example, the monetary cost of the war, which so far just to us in this country has been over $151 billion, and as a result we don’t think very much about what other things that money could be used for. The $151 billion that we have spent just this year on war and occupation in Iraq could pay, for example, for health care for 27 million uninsured Americans. It could buy 678,000 fire trucks in cities whose fire departments have been decimated. It could put 20 million children into Head Start. So, it’s a huge economic cost. Every household in this country will pay on average $3,415 each over the next three years for U.S. occupation in Iraq. The costs are staggering. What we did was to look not only as the economic costs and the human costs but also to broaden our definition, so we looked at environmental costs. We looked at the human rights costs. We looked at the security costs. We’re being told, for instance, the Bush Administration tells us all the time, that war in Iraq is making us safer. Well, in fact, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, which is perhaps the most prestigious and influential military institute in Europe or the U.S. When they were asked for a quick answer to the question “What is the effect on al Qaeda of the war in Iraq?” their answer was “accelerated recruitment.” This war is not making us safer. It’s putting us at much greater risk all around the world. The question becomes “What is the Iraqi response?” Iraqis are clearly paying the highest price in economic terms, in human terms, of course, in environmental terms over the long haul, in terms of social and political indicators, the loss of sovereignty only being the most obvious. Iraqis were asked in a study just about two weeks ago conducted by the U.S. occupation authorities their views about the occupation. The percentage of Iraqis who expressed “no confidence” in either the U.S. occupation authorities, the civilian authorities or in the coalition forces was 80%. The percentage of Iraqis who said they would feel safer if all U.S. troops left today is 55%. So, this claim that somehow the transfer of sovereignty, what is being called the transfer of sovereignty, sometimes they try to say transfer of limited sovereignty, essentially the equivalent of being a little bit pregnant, you can be a little bit sovereign, that somehow this is going to answer the problem of Iraqi opposition to the U.S. occupation, was put to rest today clearly in this massive escalation, this new set of attacks in five different cities leaving at least 70 people dead, virtually all of them Iraqis. And in that context, that clear that the new target for the Iraqi opposition is going to remain the people seen, accurately or not, as collaborating with the United States. The tragedy, of course, is that of the people killed, not all of them are collaborators. There are collaborators. They are not the only victims. But all of the victims are Iraqis. So the price that’s being paid is being paid on a daily basis, and it’s mounting. I think that when we look at the numbers — I mean, the — our report goes on for 58 pages of documented statistics and numbers of the costs in the — to the environment, the costs to political legitimacy, the costs to human rights. The human rights costs have been horrific. If we look at the global costs, for instance, to human rights, the war in Iraq particularly, although not only, the escalation of human rights violations and torture at Abu Ghraib prisons and the other prisons run by the U.S. occupation forces has given a green light to human rights violations all around the world. It’s legitimized for many governments allied with the United States the right to abandon even the claim to be abiding by the Geneva Conventions, by other human rights instruments, because they can point to the U.S. They can point to not only the practice of lower ranking U.S. military officials at Abu Ghraib in carrying out this torture, but they can point to the memos written by the highest levels of the Bush Administration who talk about the need to abandon the Geneva Conventions as quaint, claiming that President Bush as commander-in-chief has executive authority to ignore all conventions that the United States has signed onto, to determine that no soldiers, perhaps, may be automatically entitled to Geneva Convention protections, and despite all of President Bush’s defensive posture regarding, “I never authorized torture,” we have to look at that in the context of the definition that his administration has had of torture. They define torture only as mistreatment that is so serious as to cause pain, the equivalent of death or the destruction of major organs. Now, if you take that as your definition of torture, I’m sure he didn’t order torture. The problem is that’s not the definition in the global understanding of torture, as represented in the International Convention Against Torture, which has a much, much broader definition of torture, which the Bush Administration appears not to even accept. So the cost globally to human rights is a huge cost of this war.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, Fellow at Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. The report out today is called, “Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War.” The website, Phyllis?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: The website is at

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much for joining us.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!

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