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

18 Comments

  1. Shame, shame DDW! Extrapolating from a Richard Perle, bringing these facts and numbers up isn’t “reasonable.”

    NPR “Morning Edition” host Renee Montagne asked, “Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?”

    “I’ve got to say, I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t, a decade later, go back and say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t have done that,’” Perle responded.

    Not a “sorry” or any other form of regret from almost all of these people (I can’t remember if Gen. Powell admitted any regrets or not) is not just disappointing, but perplexing, infuriating, frustrating…it just makes me wonder about their lack of emotional depth beyond their own families, none of whom had anyone they care about serve in either conflict.

  2. Good question I believe that Powell has expressed regrets that he was misled on the chemical “labs,” etc., but I don’t know if he has ever expressed regrets for the war. Maybe some other readers might know.

    On Perle, he and others are just incorrigible.

    “You can’t, a decade later, go back and say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t have done that,’” Perle responded.” For his information, Americans were saying “you shouldn’t have done that,” one day after the shameful “shock and awe.”

    I agree with you on “their” (Bush, Cheney and cabal) lack of emotional depth

  3. I wonder if there are some quotes out there from people supportive of the war at that time but now have changed their view in “light of the latest intelligence information”.

  4. I am sure there are…

  5. Actually, dduck, there are. On Morning Joe two days ago, Joe Scarborough ran a short piece of him narrating people who were very supportive of the war (mainly Democrats: Nancy, Hillary, Biden, etc.) who were now speaking out against it. He was trying to demonstrate that they were just as gung ho to get Saddam as the Bush White House and now seem like hypocrites for speaking out against it now. The next day he did correct himself about Pelosi, in that her half-quote was taken out of context when you heard its entirety. You can see the piece (I believe) on their website for another day or two.

  6. Thanks, brcarthey. There are probably plenty more.

  7. Here’s the original ‘Morning Joe’ segment brcarthey referred to:

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    And here’s Joe Scarborough correction on his original implication on what Pelosi’s position was:

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Having watched both segments I conclude that Morning Joe selectively clipping ALL the statements to make a misleading inference of hypocrisy.

    Many, based on the Bush Administrations intentionally misleading ‘intelligence statements’, favored doing something to stop Hussein from doing what they were mislead into believing he was doing AND there are and were an awful lot of other options that could and should have been considered before unilaterally invading a sovereign nation.

    A few more videos with a little less selective editing would show anybody but those blinded by partisanship the actual positions of those Joe has tried to paint as hypocrites.

  8. Thank you guys for those citations and clips.
    BTW: I’m shocked, shocked that any president would use misleading intelligence.

  9. Thanks, Steve K for clarifying.

    I agree, many of those who “first supported the Iraq War before they opposed it,” did so because they were fed a bunch of shameless lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations and just plain deceit by the Bush administration — and believed the crooks.

  10. Here is from a conservative (I believe) in a conservative newspaper (I know) who initially…

    “believed it, supported the war, and cheered the troops. My break came in 2005, with two columns (here and here) that questioned Mr. Bush’s thinking, his core premises and assumptions, as presented in his Second Inaugural Address. That questioning in time became sharp criticism, accompanied by a feeling of estrangement. In the future I would feel a deeper skepticism toward both parties.”

    Great piece at the Wall Street Journal

  11. Those numbers are staggering…

    So much of this occurred through the demonetization of Saddam Hussein and he was a horrid man but this day most of us can say: ” Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

    Dorian i would like to add some numbers found on the web about the children of Iraq….

    Iraq’s anti-corruption board revealed on Saturday that there were five million Iraqi orphans as reported by official government statistics, urging the government, parliament, and NGOs to be in constant contact with Iraq’s parentless children.

    If there are 5 million orphans in Iraq in a nation of 27 million people, that is nearly 20% of the population….

    And we are just now beginning to learn of the high increase in birth defects, that will likely continue for many years and even generations…

    …one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a “staggering rise” in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.

    High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

    There is “compelling evidence” to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/l.....10444.html

    Bush is home painting puppies and Cheney is still defending himself all the while the numbers continue to click away and inexpressible suffering continues…

    For what?

  12. “Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.” Friedrich Nietzsche German philosopher.

  13. OS,

    Those statistics are even more harrowing and staggering than the billions and trillion spent on that lousy war.

    Then there is the appalling “refugees story.”

  14. Continuing what OS was referring to here is an article on Al-Jazeera discussing the birth defects and cancer.

    Apparently during the invasion the US/coalition forces used depleted uranium munitions, including, literally, billions of bullets (or, as one Pakistan newspaper put it, “That is 250,000 bullets per ‘insurgent’ killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”) And that’s not to mention the bombs used this time or the radioactive mess left behind after the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

    This has created a legacy for the people of Iraq that will have such lasting repercussions despite whatever good or other ill the war might have done. In Fallujah, the city that we bombed into virtual dust, the number of birth defects is staggering: “the incident rates of congenital malformations remained around 14 percent.” That includes “babies born with cleft pallets, elongated heads, a baby born with one eye in the centre of its face, overgrown limbs, short limbs, and malformed ears, noses and spines.” And this is not to mention the cardiac birth defect rate that’s 13 times higher than Europe and to the nervous system that’s worse at 33 times Europe. Parents in Fallujah are reportedly afraid to have children due to a 1 in 10 chance of infants suffering cyclopia (which is non-compatible with life). In Basra, the rate of birth defects increased by seven times between 1993 and 2004. As for the cancer rates, between 1993 and 2007, the rate of leukemia in children increased fivefold in Basra. Essentially, we’ve managed to turn large areas of Iraq into nuclear dumps due to the long-term effects of our bombardments. However, what’s truly frightening is that we’re just a decade from the start of the war, not the end. Therefore, the peak incidence may not occur for another few years.

    To top it off, Iraq’s power grid is still not fully functional especially around Baghdad. And we wonder why we’re not looked upon fondly by Iraqis??

  15. OS and brcarthey: I had not heard those statistics and tragic “after effects,” for lack of a better word. I guess “it never ends.” And, it is almost equally sad how many people still try to make excuses for it, or rationalize it — or project it.

  16. And, it is almost equally sad how many people still try to make excuses for it, or rationalize it — or project it.

    Equally sad? Really!

  17. thanks Dorian and brcharthey thanks for posting that link on Iraq War’s legacy…it left me in tears… the deformity of the two babies they showed is something i will not forget.

    brcharthey’s link again about the consequences of war to the most vulnerable…..

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indep.....38638.html

    I hate war…

  18. OS, I don’t know if you had the chance to read through the numerous comments on the Al Jazeera article.

    If you haven’t, I would recommend you don’t. While there are many heartfelt comments, there are also many that are almost as sickening as the images themselves.

    It makes one realize how fortunate we are at TMV to have such a civil, respectful level of commentary — a lot thanks to the untiring work of Dr. E.

    Thank you for yours.

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