Sunday, March 23, 2008

Patrick McIlheran's straw man

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's resident Republican Party apologist, Mr. Patrick McIlheran, castigates economists for saying that the war in Iraq has cost $3 trillion when it has ONLY cost $750 billion.

Two problems.

First, no one has said that the war has cost $3 trillion.

Economists like Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, a former President of the Council of Economic Advisers and VP of the World Bank, and Yale University's William D. Nordhaus have estimated that the war will eventually cost more than $2 trillion.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office recently confirmed these projects.

By creating a straw man, Mr. McIlheran conveniently ignores the Bush administration's promises that the invasion and occupation would pay for itself.

“Iraq has oil,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Fortune magazine in 2002, discussing the potential cost of an Iraq invasion and how it would be met. “They have financial resources.”

Paul Wolfowitz, formerly Rumsfeld’s deputy, was even bolder when he testified before Congress as the war began that: “The oil revenues of that country could bring in between $50 (billion) and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction.”

The President’s men saw what they wanted to see — Iraq's 115 billion barrels of oil reserves beneath the desert. They were blind to the reality: An oil industry decimated by more than a decade of economic sanctions, with technological decay and even geological deterioration of the fields already gnawing at it.

The rash predictions about Iraqi oil paying for the American invasion and occupation of Iraq were always suspect, part of the administration's marketing campaign to sell the war as a short and relatively cost-free operation.

Secondly, this war, the second most costly in U.S. history, is being fought with borrowed money.

McIlheran is a self proclaimed fiscal conservative. Yet he completely ignores that this is the first time in US history that we cut taxes while waging a war. Or that the resulting deficits will be passed on to future generations.

In 2006 the U.S. Congressional Budget Office estimated that if we "stay the course in Iraq, McIlheran's preferred strategy, the deficit will increase by $313 billion over the next four years and $1.3 trillion over the next decade.

Even if we accept McIlheran's $750 billion figure, the cost is more than 7 times what the Bush administration said the war would cost. Or as New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, recently wrote we are spending $12.5 billion a month or $5000 every second. As Senator Everett Dirksen once said: "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money."

The problem, Patrick, is not that some are overestimating the long-term costs of the war, but that the Bush administration was as wrong about the cost of the war as it was about almost everything else in Iraq. On this your silence is deafening!


krshorewood said...

The other very obvious problem is where did Paddy get this $750 B figure -- out of his ass?

Anonymous said...

Let's put the obvious on the table. Al-Qaida needs a new safe haven to replace Afghanistan. The only question is where in the Islamic world they will find that safe haven. Pakistan, Iraq, or some other country. Maybe you think if we leave the middle east the Al-Qaida threat will disappear.
It's easy to criticize President Bush's offensive approach to fighting terrorism. It's much harder keep America and our allies safe. So the question is, do you have a plan to defend this nation and its allies? If so, please share it with us.

Michael Rosen said...


Your comment and question are based on a false assumption-that the war in Iraq was launched to fight terrorism and is makiing us safer by weakening Al Qaeda.

In fact, the 9/11 terrorists were based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not Iraq which was a secular Muslin dictatorship. By invading Iraq we let the real terrorists alone and created many more by angering people who did not think we had any business invading and occupying a sovereign nation, no matter how despotic.

The war continues to undermine our top national security priority -- the fight against Al Qaeda, which has strengthened itself in Pakistan and Afghanistan and reached out to new affiliates around the world. The war in Iraq diverted our attention from exactly these Al Qaeda safe havens.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the war costs us over $10 billion a month in direct costs. The war saps our military, which is stretched too thin to keep us safe here at home. In short, the war is making us weaker, not stronger, and that trend is not likely to change.