You are here

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 in Afghanistan, and a weakened American economy.   

This fact sheet provides an overview of the costs of  the Iraq war in four areas:

star  The  impact on our troops      

star  The  impact on our nation's military readiness    

star  The  impact on the war in Afghanistan 

star  The impact on America's economy 



    IMPACT ON OUR TROOPS

    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]


    IMPACT ON OUR NATION'S MILITARY  READINESS

    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.' [Boston  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]
         



    IMPACT OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

    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]

     

    IMPACT ON AMERICA'S ECONOMY

    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  Economy.com
    '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:

                                                                                       

    Second

    $3,919

    Minute

    $235,160

    Hour

    $14,109,589

    Day

    $338,630,137

    Week

    $2.400,000,000

    Month

    $10,3 00,000,000

    Year

    $123.6 00,000,000

     

     

     

     

    [Congressional Research Service, 2/22/08]