Saturday, September 18, 2004

Two Myths about Iraq

"The cost of the President's go-it-alone policy in Iraq is now $200 billion and counting."

John Kerry, "Remarks on Bush’s Wrong Choices in Iraq That Have Left Us Without the Resources We Need at Home", Cincinnati, OH, September 8, 2004

It is perfectly legitimate for John Kerry to raise questions about how George W. Bush has handled Iraq. That's why we have elections. Unfortunately, the sentence I have quoted above is factually challenged in two ways:

1. We have spent $200 billion in Iraq.

This statement is simply not accurate. To quote

There's little question that the Iraq war and its bloody aftermath will cost $200 billion, eventually. But so far, the bill for the war is still under $120 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Kerry runs the figure up to $200 billion by counting money scheduled to be spent next fiscal year, plus additional funds for the future that haven't even been requested yet. He also is counting money projected to be spent for operations in Afghanistan and to protect US cities, not for Iraq.


In an estimate released in June the Office of Management and Budget put the total cost of the war -- including reconstruction and costs of supporting coalition forces -- at $119 billion through the end of this month.

One liberal group, the Center for American Progress, comes up with a higher figure in an August 25 report: "so far, the war has cost the United States $144.4 billion." But that figure is produced by simply padding the OMB's $119 billion figure with $25 billion approved by Congress as an "emergency appropriation" signed into law by Bush on Aug. 5. But there are two problems with doing that. First, the money is for fiscal year 2005, which doesn't begin until Oct. 1, and so it hasn't been spent yet. And second, the $25 billion includes money both for Iraq and Afghanistan , so not all of it can be counted in the eventual cost of the Iraq war.

Source:, "Kerry Exaggerates Cost of War in Iraq", September 13, 2004

(link via QandO)

In other words, we have spent $119 billion in Iraq over the course of the last 18 months. For John Kerry to tack on an extra $80 billion that hasn't yet been spent, and not all of which will be spent in Iraq, is less than honest. $119 billion is certainly a lot of money, but one also needs to remember that the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2003 is estimated at $10.98 trillion (source: CIA World Factbook). $119 billion, spent over two years, adds up to less than 1% of our annual GDP. A large amount, to be sure, but not anything beyond our ability to pay.

2. The Bush Administration has pursued a "go-it-alone policy in Iraq".

This has been one of John Kerry's main criticisms of the Iraq campaign. Earlier this year, he referred to the coalition of countries working with us in Iraq as a "trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted." I'm sure Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Japan, Poland, and the 20 some other American allies who are part of the Iraq coalition must be heartened by Senator Kerry's appreciation for their support. The families of the over 150 coalition soldiers who have died fighting at our side in Iraq are no doubt especially gratified by Kerry's high opinion of their sacrifice. Here are some statistics Senator Kerry might want to consider:

-As of June 2004, the "authentic" NATO-sanctioned coalition in Afghanistan included 6,500 troops from 37 countries.

-As of August 2004, the "phony" Iraq coalition totalled 26,000 troops from 31 countries. In addition, a NATO training mission has also been established.

-Non US troops provide about 25% of the 27,000 strong coalition force in Afghanistan.

-Non US troops provide about 15% of the 165,000 strong coalition force in Iraq.

Yes, many of the coalition contingents in Iraq are relatively small. However, the same is true of the Afghan coalition. Is the 600 man South Korean contingent in Iraq any more "phony" than the 565 man French force in Afghanistan? Is the 12 strong Moldovan contingent in Iraq worth any less than the 9 troops from Luxemburg in Afghanistan?

In other words, the "phony" Iraq coalition contains almost as many countries and four times as many troops as the NATO-led Afghanistan coalition. While the percentage of non-US coalition troops is higher in Afghanistan, this is more a reflection of the much smaller US presence in that country (20,000 troops vs. 140,000 in Iraq).

Senator Kerry might want to rethink his idea of what a "phony coalition" is.

(edited to fix links-DD, 9-21-04)


Post a Comment

<< Home