I've made the point repeatedly here that Iraq isn't "over" as far the US is concerned. The costs will continue to be huge, as these comments from economist Linda Blimes (via the Common Ills blog) suggest:
Along with all the deaths, the Iraq War has had other costs. "So thinking about the war in Iraq, America, you already bought it -- but do you have any of the price?" John Hockenberry asked that question today on PRI's The Takeaway. He and Lynn Sherr (sitting in for Celeste Headlee) spoke to economist Linda Blimes.
John Hockenberry: You know, when we spoke quite awhile ago, your estimates [for the financial cost of war] were theoretical. We're much less theoretical now. Is there a running tally of what's actually gone out the door and -- versus what we're committed to?
Linda Blimes: Well I think that people are familiar with the fact that we've already spent close to a trillion dollars in real terms on combat operations in Iraq. But what is less well known is that there are still trillions of dollars of costs more that we have already incurred but not yet paid out. So drawing down the number of troops doesn't save nearly as much money as you would think.
John Hockenberry: And when you say what we're committed to, when you say trillions, is that two trillions or is that going to be six trilliion? You know, you used plural.
Linda Blimes: Well when you think about the costs that we still have ahead -- There are several costs which are going to add. We have estimated a minimum of two trillion dollars more ahead. And first of all we should just be clear that we're still going to have 50,000 troops or so in Iraq for the next year and a half.
John Hockenberry: Right.
Linda Blimes: And we also have troops, thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar and our Navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn and who are supporting them. So it costs billions of dollars every month just to keep them there. But there are at least five big costs that are still ahead. First of all veterans disability claims.
John Hockenberry: Right.
Linda Blimes: And two million US troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and already about 450,000 of those who have returned have filed for disability compensation.
John Hockenberry: And that's a huge fraction.
Linda Blimes: I mean, that is huge fraction because --
John Hockenberry: It's 20%.
Linda Blimes: Well it's more than that because half of the troops are still deployed.
John Hockenberry: There you go.
Linda Blimes: So it's about 40%.
John Hockenberry: Wow.
Linda Blimes: And the vast majority of these claims will be approved and the government will be paying out benefits for many decades.
Lynn Sherr: And you're saying that figure is not counted in up front? That's a -- that's a lag figure?
Linda Blimes: That is a lag figure, that's a good way of putting it. That is not counted up front. Even though we know from previous wars that the peak year for paying out disability payment comes many, many decades later. But in this war we have fortunately a much higher survival rate, so that means we have a much higher rate of those who are wounded or for whom something happens to them during their period of service.