The Iraq War in Numbers

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The disaster and the shame that is — still — the Iraq War can be described, measured and quantified in many ways.

Over at Foreign Policy, Neta C. Crawford, a Professor of Political Science at Boston University, has put together a list of numbers that “help put the past 10 years [since the start of the War] in perspective.”

Below are some of the numbers I found the most interesting and pertinent. I have changed the order in which they were originally listed and abbreviated some of them. For the full text please click here.

0 [Zero]: Al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion. But a new organization, known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, has since formed and has attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces, and wages regular attacks on Iraqi civilians. Additionally, by 2013, AQI had spread offshoots and technical know-how to Syria, Jordan, and Libya…

8th: Iraq’s ranking on a scale of corruption. While Iraq has established the formal institutions and practices of a democracy, it was ranked the eighth most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International last year…

349: The number of U.S. active duty military suicides in 2012. Ken MacLeish of Vanderbilt University suggests that this toll is not only higher since the Iraq War began, but may climb as the trauma from war often manifests in soldiers years, sometimes decades, after they return home.

190,000: The minimum documented number of people killed in the war. The majority of those killed in Iraq since 2003 have been civilians. The dead also include 4,488 U.S. soldiers, and up to 3,400 U.S. contractors and nearly 11,000 Iraqi police, 318 allied military, and 62 humanitarian workers…

2.5 million: U.S. service men and women who have deployed in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1.5 million have already left active duty and become eligible for veterans medical and disability benefits…The costs of medical and disability care for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will rise, and Blimes projects they will reach over $970 billion by 2053.

$1.7 trillion: The cost of the Iraq War to U.S. taxpayers before adding future care for veterans and interest on war borrowing. Adding anticipated future costs for veterans care, Iraq’s share of the $4 trillion spent and obligated for Iraq and AfPak rises to over $2.1 trillion. The Bush administration estimated the Iraq war would cost $50 to 60 billion.

$4 trillion: Cumulative interest on borrowing for Iraq through 2053. The United States did not increase taxes to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Economist Ryan Edwards of Queens College, CUNY calculated only the interest that is due on borrowing to pay for the military and state department costs. Interest costs on both wars will exceed $7.5 trillion. Iraq’s share of Defense Department and State Department war appropriation spending from 2001 to 2013 is 54 percent. You do the math.

Crawford concludes with these words of caution and advice:

Many opportunity costs of these wars cannot be enumerated — but there are some lessons that can be drawn. If I had one to impart to the next generation of foreign policy decision makers it would be to remember to balance the tendency to over-estimate the utility of military force with a sober assessment of the risks and costs of action. Those costs always add up. The costs of this war will constrain U.S. possibilities — both foreign and domestic — for decades to come.

I am intrigued by numbers, too, and have in the past used numbers in a different way — for example the number of words in politicians’ utterances — to illustrate the folly and obscenity of the War and the shamefulness of those who started and pursued it.

Here are some interesting “word counts”

34 Words: “British intelligence has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.” – President Bush, 2003 State of the Union Address, “and a nation was bound for an unnecessary and disastrous war.

34 Words: “In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. He gave support to terrorists, had an established relationship with al Qaeda, and his regime is no more.” –- Vice President Dick Cheney, Nov. 7, 2003

26 Words: “As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, responding to a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq who asked him: : “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? And why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?”

17 Words: “One of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” Sep 7, 2006 –- George W. Bush in an interview with Katie Couric.

13 Words: “I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” — Vice President Dick Cheney, on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005

11 Words: “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” — Vice President Dick Cheney, “Meet the Press,” March 16, 2003

11 Words: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” — National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, on Iraq’s nuclear capabilities and the Bush administration’s case for war, Sept. 8, 2002

10 Words: “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere!” — President Bush, joking about his administration’s failure to find WMDs in Iraq as he narrated a comic slide show during the Radio & TV Correspondents’ Association dinner, March 25, 2004

9 Words: “Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.” — President Bush, discussing the Iraq war with Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, after Robertson told him he should prepare the American people for casualties

7 Words: “We found the weapons of mass destruction.” — President Bush, in an interview with Polish television, May 29, 2003

4 Words: “It’s a slam-dunk case!” — CIA Director George Tenet, discussing WMD and the case for war during a meeting in the Oval Office, Dec. 21, 2002

3 Words: “bring ‘em on” — President George W. Bush, challenging militants attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, July 2, 2003

2 Words: “Mission Accomplished” — False words on a banner on the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier, where, on May 2, 2003, President Bush delivered 20 more false words: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

Finally one single, little word: “So?” — Dick Cheney responding [in a March 2008 interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz ] when he was asked what he thought about polls that indicate two-thirds of Americans believe the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, that the cost in lives was not worth the gains:

“So?” the vice president said.

[:]

When pressed by the reporter whether he cares about the opinion of the American people, instead of bristling at the suggestion, Dick Cheney tried to emend his response by saying “I think you can not be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.”

You know, those pesky polls that merely reflect the will of the people.

Source for non-attributed quotes: about.com

Image: www.shutterstock.com

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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