2004 December 02 Thursday
Iraq Monthly War Cost Rises To $5.8 Billion, Set To Go Higher

As recently as June 2004 it was under $5 billion. Now costs, not including US Navy costs, are running at a rate over $70 billion per year.

As casualties mount in Iraq, so has the monetary cost of the war. The military is now spending more than $5.8 billion each month, top officials told Congress this week.


The Army, with about 110,000 soldiers on the ground in Iraq, has a monthly "burn rate" of $4.7 billion.

The Air Force is spending about $800 million monthly.

The Marines, which are spearheading the fighting in Fallujah, had an average monthly war cost of $300 million.

These costs understate the total real financial costs of the war. For example, the Veterans Administration is already spending

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi said Tuesday that the violent guerrilla tactics used by insurgents in Iraq will take a considerable toll on the mental health of troops, resulting in a lifetime of disability payments for many of those who return from war.

So far 20 percent of returning Iraq veterans who've sought VA care have done so for mental health issues. While the exact cost of compensating those injured in the Iraq war is uncertain, the VA already expects to pay $600 billion over the next three decades in disability payments to veterans of earlier wars.

So what will be the long term costs for maimed and psychologically damaged US soldiers who served in Iraq? Anyone know how to make a rough calculation in that direction? Keep in mind that the portion of maimed US soldiers is much higher relative to deaths as compared to previous wars. For more on that point see my previous post Death Rates Of US Soldiers Understate Intensity Of Iraq Fighting. In a nutshell the ratio of wounded to killed as tripled in Iraq as compared to Vietnam. So fighting in Iraq that produces a death toll of 100 soldiers produces a number of injured that equals about the number of injured that 300 soldier deaths in Vietnam produced.

Back in spring and summer of 2004 the official Bush Administration answer to the obviously inadequate number of US soldiers in Iraq was that native Iraqi forces were staffing up rapidly and would soon take over much more of the fighting. But the tempo of combat has intensified in Iraq and the US casualty rate has risen with little in the way of Iraqi contributions on the US and Iraqi government side. The Iraqis have been making much bigger contributions fighting for the insurgency though.

Well, the fantasy about help from the Iraqis is getting too hard to maintain. The Bush Administration has just decided to increase the number of soldiers in Iraq.

The Pentagon said yesterday that it will boost the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to about 150,000, the highest level since the U.S. occupation began 19 months ago.

Most of the increase in the troop count -- which now stands at about 138,000 -- will come from the extended deployment of units already there as others arrive.

That increase in the number of soldiers in Iraq will of course increase the monthly burn rate.

The military says this boost is in order to support holding of the elections.

"It's mainly to provide security for the elections, but it's also to keep up pressure on the insurgency after the Fallujah operation," Army Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy director of regional operations, said Wednesday.

Of course the elections are supposed to be over in January. But the additional troops will be there till March. The surge probably really is temporary for the simple reason that the US military is not big enough to sustain a larger force in Iraq.

The Bush Administration predictions have been wrong so many times that their predictions aren't worth taking seriously. Before the war Paul Wolfowitz claimed the Iraqis would treat the American soldiers as liberators and in late May 2003 Donald Rumsfeld claimed there'd be only 30,000 US soldiers left in Iraq by the end of 2003.

For obvious domestic political reasons, the Bush Administration going into the war had downplayed the scale and duration of a post-war occupation mission. When then-Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki told legislators that such a mission would require several hundred thousand U.S. troops, his assessment had been immediately dismissed by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as "wildly off the mark." Wolfowitz explained that "I am reasonably certain that (the Iraqi people) will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." Six weeks ago, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was still suggesting the U.S. force in Iraq could be reduced to 30,000 by the end of the year. But the prevailing assessment in Washington appears to be shifting to the idea of a figure closer to Shinseki's.

Of course, the US military does not have enough troops to occupy Iraq with a larger force. At the same time, I do not see Bush pushing to build up a larger military. The budget deficit is too big already. The US military in Iraq needs technologies that would achieve a much greater level of automation in urban fighting. But after a year and a half of urban fighting necessity still hasn't been the mother of enough invention to make urban fighting less dangerous to US soldiers.

So how long will the fighting in Iraq continue? 5 years? 10 years? I can't see it going for 10 years because in 2014 the United States is going to be deep enough into the baby boomer retirement financial crisis that the idea of spending $70-100 billion per year in Iraq is going to be seen as unaffordable and unjustifiable.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 December 02 01:49 AM  Mideast Iraq Costs

Invisible Scientist said at December 2, 2004 10:40 AM:

let us say that we can round this $70 billion figure to $100 billion, because in addition to spare parts
that are costly, it turns out that the sand in Iraq is wearing out all the components of the armored vehicles,
in addition to many components of the helicopters and low flying aircraft in Iraq. This means that many armored
vehicles and helicopters will have to be replaced very soon in a couple of years. This means a trillion dollar
addition to the defense budget in a lump sum in a couple of years. Additionally, many of the middle-age F-18 planes are very
worn out already, since catapult launching from the aircraft carriers happens to be very stressful for the airframe. Only
the newer Super-Hornets are in better shape. Similarly, the rest of the USAF is also somewhat worn out, and many planes
are being cannibalized to keep the others going. In any case, the Iraq war alone is costing just under 1 % of the GDP.

Derek Copold said at December 3, 2004 3:13 PM:

And what do you do with the man who oversaw this disaster? Why keep him in his job, of course.

Meanwhile, the guy slated to replace Tom Ridge as Sec'y of Homeland Security is the same guy who trained the Iraqi Police. You know, that fierce fighting force which spared our boys the need to take over Fallujah. Don't you feel more secure already?

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