Rocketing US war spending under fire
Sydney Morning Herald
By Jonathan Weisman
April 21, 2006
WITH the expected passage through the Senate next month of the largest emergency spending bill in American history, annual war expenditures in Iraq will have nearly doubled since the US-led invasion three years ago.
The US Government is now spending about $US10 billion ($13.4 billion) a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $US8.2 billion a year ago, a report from the Congressional Research Service has found.
Meanwhile, a second study released on Wednesday was critical of rebuilding efforts, saying the US had failed to make the health of ordinary Iraqi and Afghan citizens a top priority, thus missing an opportunity to create substantial goodwill in the crucial days after the invasions.
The report by the government-funded RAND Corporation compared the successful rebuilding of post-World War II Germany and Japan with more recent nation-building efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.
It found that those earlier efforts put health care - including nutrition, basic sanitation, and medical attention - at the top of the rebuilding agenda. "Of the many health and nation-building lessons that the international community learned, few have been applied in Afghanistan or Iraq," the report says.
The study found that 40 per cent of the water and sanitation network in Baghdad was damaged during the past three years and still has not been repaired.
Afghanistan faces some of the most difficult challenges in health care. After three decades of strife, the country still has no national health system, requiring donor states to build one from scratch. The country will require long-term investments in nutrition and sanitation. Afghanistan will also have to train a new generation of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, the report says.
The research service reported that annual war costs in Iraq were easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the US spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today's dollars. The invasion's "shock and awe" of high-tech laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and stealth aircraft has long faded, but the costs of those early months are surfacing as the military confronts equipment repair and rebuilding costs it has avoided and procurement costs it never expected.
"If you look at the earlier estimates of anticipated costs, this war is a lot more expensive than it should be based on past conflicts," said Steven Kosiak, budget studies director at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The issue will be hotly debated next week when the Senate takes up a record $US106.5 billion emergency spending bill that includes $US72.4 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Washington Post, The Boston Globe
2003 $US48 billion ($65 billion)
2004 $US59 billion
2005 $US81 billion
2006 $US94 billion (estimated)
US casualties 2378 dead, 17,549 wounded