How much has the Iraq war cost? When the war began, the White House famously downplayed estimates that it could cost up to US$50 billion, saying that it was impossible to tell what the ultimate cost could be. That was of course when they thought it would be in, out, and home by Christmas. The reality has turned out rather differently, and the cost has ballooned - to well over a trillion dollars. US$700 billion of that is the direct cost of salaries, fuel, and ammunition, and the rest - different amounts, depending on how much you ask, but probably another US$500 billion - covers things like the extra medical care required for crippled veterans, replacing the equipment and people squandered in Bush's mad crusade, and (in some estimates) the cost of higher oil prices. No efforts are made to put a price on the 3000 dead soldiers - let alone the estimated 655,000 dead Iraqis.
This points out a flaw in the analysis: that it looks only at costs to America. But while they're paying the bills, it is Iraqis who have paid the price, both in shattered lives and a shattered country.
The New York Times attempts to put the cost of the war in context by comparing it to the cost of domestic spending programmes in the US. Instead of a US$200 billion a year war, the US could have had universal healthcare, universal preschooling, implemented the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission for better port security - and still had the paltry US$0.6 billion a year left over to immunise every child in the world against measles, whooping cough, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio and diphtheria. But this war was ostensibly fought for the benefit of Iraqis, not Americans - so what would it mean to them? And here it gets truly horrifying: the US$200 billion estimated annual cost of the war is five times Iraq's pre-war GDP. If doled out on a per-capita basis, it would have raised per-capita incomes from the pre-war realm of Togo and Nepal to the not-too-shabby (on a global scale) ballpark of Eastern Europe and Chile. If invested in a development program, it would have been bigger than the Marshall Plan, and laid the foundation for a massive and long-term lifting of Iraqi living standards. In short, if the US wanted a democratic beacon in the Middle East to showcase the benefits of western society, they could have just bought one. Instead, they decided it was better value for money to kill people - and spend well over a million dollars per corpse doing it.