Show Me the Money: Why Have the Media Overlooked Key Aspect of the War?

By: Greg Mitchell

It has always amazed me that critics of the Iraq war, the media in general ? even most Democrats running for president ? have made relatively little of the financial cost of the conflict.

Perhaps they feel it is a little unseemly to focus on dollars and sense when the most tragic cost is the loss of lives on all sides, and the tens of thousands badly wounded. Yet the fallout for hundreds of millions of Americans ? alive and yet unborn ? has been too often overlooked.

I should talk. I have written maybe 40 columns in the past five years on the plight of U.S. veterans, suicides, and civilian casualties in Iraq, but little about the economic dimension, beyond pointing out, a few times, that Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld promised the whole war and occupation might cost us $100 billion tops (or nothing, if the oil reveneues paid out). We burned through that ceiling years ago.

But the financial fallout/crisis seems to be in the air right now. Just in recent days, since a congressional hearing on this subject (which got some, but not enough coverage), frequent references to a new book by Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz have cropped up all over the place.

Stiglitz talks of a $3 trillion or even $5 trillion dollar price tag. Much of this, of course, comes from treating our wounded, physically and mentally, for, oh, decades. But other aspects of the cost come into play when you consider what spending that money prevents us from doing in establishing a safer, better and more economically viable country for our children.

Today, Bob Herbert, in his New York Times column, raises the attention to a new level. He also quotes Stiglitz saying, “For a fraction of the cost of this war, we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more.? I won?t go into it more here, as it is now so easy for you to mosey over to www.nytimes.com and check it out, with TimesSelect no longer blocking access.

Harder to spot on most radars is a piece posted today by Tom Engelhardt at his excellent blog www.tomdispatch.com by William D. Hartung.

Bill Hartung is the much-respected director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. His piece at TomDispatch is titled, ?War is Hell, But What the Hell Does it Cost? One Week at War in Iraq and Afghanistan for $3.5 Billion.?

In it he lays out what we are paying for by ?breaking those soaring trillions down into smaller pieces, into mere millions and billions? How much, for instance, does one week of George Bush’s wars cost?? For the answer, see the full article. It closes: “So don’t just think of that $3.5 billion per week figure as a given. Think of it as $3.5 billion? and counting. Doesn’t that make you feel safer?”
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To comment, or order my new book, “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq,” go to blog

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