On December 6 Pentagon boss Donald Rumsfeld promised four more years of death and destruction in Iraq. Assuming the war continues to cost the US taxpayers $6 billion per month — not including reconstruction costs, fat no-bid contracts for the Bush administration’s major contributors, and replacement costs of the military equipment that is being blown apart and worn out — that comes to $288 billion. Add that sum to the $149 billion the war has already cost US taxpayers for a total of $437 billion.
Turning to the human toll, from March 20, 2003 to December 7, 2004 (approximately 21 months) the Pentagon says 1,280 US troops have been killed and 9,765 wounded in Iraq. The Pentagon’s wounded figure conflicts with the report from the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, that as of Thanksgiving week the hospital has treated almost 21,000 Americans injured in Iraq. According to the hospital, more than half were too badly injured to return to their units.
Assuming no escalation in the insurgency, a continuation of four more years of war would result in another 2,925 US troops being killed for a total of 4,205. Using the Pentagon’s wounded figure, 22,320 more US troops would be injured for a total of 32,085. Using the US military hospital’s figure, another 48,000 US troops would be wounded for a total of 69,000.
Assuming the US is able to keep 138,000 US troops in Iraq during Bush’s second term, US dead and wounded (Pentagon figure) would comprise 26% of the US force in Iraq. Using the military hospital’s figure, US dead and wounded would comprise 53% of our entire army in Iraq.
The present military manpower system cannot provide replacements for these losses. Current troop strengths are being maintained by calling up reserve and national guard units and by extending soldiers’ tours of duty beyond the contractual period, a practice that US troops are contesting in court. Tens of thousands of careers, marriages, and family finances are being disrupted and destroyed by the commitment of reserve and national guard units to war in Iraq.
What is Bush achieving in return for such horrendous costs?
Bush has destroyed our alliances and the good will of a half century of US foreign policy.
Bush has created an insurgency where there was none.
Bush has destroyed US prestige in the Middle East and reduced America’s support among Middle Eastern populations to the single digits.
Bush has made Osama bin Laden a hero and recruited tens of thousands of terrorists to his ranks, while simultaneously alienating Middle Easterners from the secular puppet rulers we have imposed on them.
At a minimum Bush is responsible for between 14,619 and 16,804 Iraqi civilian deaths during the 21 months since the invasion. Compiled from hospital, morgue, and media reports, these figures understate civilian deaths. In keeping with Islam’s quick burial requirement, many Iraqis were buried in sports fields and in back gardens during protracted US assaults on urban areas. A recent report in the British medical journal, The Lancet, estimates that 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since March 20, 2003. This figure does not include the large number of Iraqi deaths from the embargo and US bombing for more than a decade prior to the US invasion.
Projecting the reported Iraqi civilian deaths for four more years of US occupation produces a figure of 51,621 civilians killed as "collateral damage." Projecting the Lancet’s figure produces a figure of 328,571 civilian deaths by the end of Bush’s second term.
Then there are the civilian injured, for which there appear to be no figures. If we assume the same ratio of killed to wounded for civilian deaths as holds for the US military, the reported death figure gives a civilian wounded figure of 392,320. The Lancet estimate gives a wounded figure of 2,497,139.
The ratio of 7.6 wounded US troops for each soldier killed is probably low for calculating civilian Iraqi wounded. US forces travel in armored vehicles, are protected with helmets and body armor and are not on the receiving end of artillery and massive bombs that kill everything in a quarter mile radius. The ratio could easily be 10 or 15 wounded Iraqi civilians for every one killed.
Did the Americans who reelected Bush know that the president who will admit to no mistake is locked on a course that will squander a half trillion dollars for no purpose other than to kill and wound between 36,290 and 73,205 US troops, with "collateral damage" to Iraqi civilians ranging from 443,941 to 2,825,710 dead and wounded?
If Saddam Hussein is a "mass murderer," what does that make President Bush and those who reelected him?
Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.