The Cost of Doing War

U.N.-haters have been slobbering all over the likelihood that Saddam Hussein skimmed anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion off out of monies derived from the United Nations Oil-for-Food program over a period of several years.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was asking for more money to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ostensibly, just $25 billion for now, but likely to add up to the total of $5 billion per month for the foreseeable future. The bulk of that money is regarded as “troop support”, but it’s not as if it’s going to be paid to the troops. Much of it will go to companies like Halliburton for supply functions, food services, and other operations that used to be handled (without a profit being taken) by the military themselves. Another chunk will go to replace and refurbish weapons and vehicles. It’d be interesting to see the balance sheets of those companies in the next fiscal year; Saddam might be envious.

In 2002, the per capita income in Iraq was estimated by the World Bank as somewhere between $750 and $900. As the cost of the Iraq war alone crosses the $100 billion mark, we’ve spent about $3,500 per Iraqi, between four and seven years’ income. Maybe we should have just skipped the invasion, the bombing, 700+ American dead and thousands of wounded (so far), tens of thousands of Iraqi dead and injured, and given them some money. At this rate, we’ll be following the Soviet Union down the same hole it dug for itself in Afghanistan.