So what’s a more realistic figure?
Anywhere from $1 trillion to $5 trillion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently said that the war’s cost would amount to $1.2 trillion to $1.7 trillion by 2017. Harvard researcher Linda Bilmes and Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, in their book The $3 Trillion War, say that the war’s long-term cost will range from $2 trillion to $5 trillion. Iraq is already the second most expensive war in U.S. history. Only World War II cost more, about $5 trillion, adjusted for inflation. As a point of perspective, consider what the $600 billion we’ve spent already could have purchased, says Bilmes. “The money spent on the war could have fixed Social Security for 75 years or provided health insurance to all American children,” she says.
Has the money been well spent?
In many cases, no. Audits and oversight groups have found that tens of billions have been squandered in waste, fraud, and corruption. Contractors hired to rebuild the country’s infrastructure or provide security have overcharged the U.S. for everything from soft drinks—$45 a can—to gasoline. Millions of dollars in no-bid reconstruction contracts were diverted to things such as Super Bowl tickets, prostitutes, watches, and jewelry. And much of the reconstruction work has been substandard. The U.S., for example, paid $72 million to Parsons, a U.S. contractor, to build a police academy in Baghdad. But the building was so badly put together that raw sewage seeps from its walls and ceilings. “This became the lens through which Iraqis now see America—incompetence, profiteering, arrogance,” said House Democrat Henry Waxman of California, a vocal critic of the war.
Analysts also state that they not sure now much of Iraq’s oil is siphoned off because monitors were never installed on the pipelines. It is also suspected that a sizable amount of Iraq’s reconstruction funds are funneled to various militia groups, which means that Bush has us financing the people causing most of the civil unrest. It would have been cheaper to have bought Iraq, made it a state and put the Texas Rangers in charge of security and training.