Even the most strident hawks in Washington could not have
anticipated the stunning costs of the war in Iraq, but that is no reason to
keep blindly throwing money to fund what has become an elusive and
questionable campaign. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost American
taxpayers more than $314 billion so far and the Bush's administration's open-
ended commitment has rightly raised concerns, even among war supporters.
At the rate the United States is spending to fund the war efforts, the
military campaigns could become the most expensive operations in the past 60
years, far exceeding the costs of the Korean and Vietnam wars. One nonpartisan
Washington think tank estimates that the cost of the war in Iraq could exceed
$700 billion -- a remarkable sum considering that polls show a majority of
American believe that the war wasn't worth starting and feel that they are no
safer today than they were before Sept. 11, 2001.
Such mind-numbing spending on wars with no discernible exit strategy is
all the more troublesome because it has occurred outside the normal budget
process, with a series of pay-as-you-go supplemental appropriations. The
stealth-funding approach has come without comparable reductions in other
government programs, thus saddling the country with an enormous debt burden
that exceeded more than $400 billion last year.
President Bush's recent efforts to sell the war to the American people
have never been accompanied by solid fiscal policy. The Congressional Budget
Office estimated three years ago that the wars would cost between $1.5 billion
to $4 billion per month, when in fact the campaigns are costing up to $8
billion per month. Given that the astonishing spending levels have done little
to curb the insurgency that has claimed the lives of 1,763 U.S. soldiers and
wounded more than 13,000, it's no wonder that many lawmakers in Washington are
questioning whether the cost of these wars has grown far too high.
Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has termed the military spending
priorities as "dangerously irresponsible.'' That's the only reasonable
response to a war policy that lacks a coherent plan for bringing stability to
At least the Bush administration should be forthright enough to include
the cost of the Iraq mission in the budget.
© 2005 San Francisco Chronicle