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Pentagon removes $3 trillion price tag for war from web site after exposure


By Ralph Forbes

The cost of direct U.S. military operations in Iraq—not including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans—already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

These costs are projected to be almost 10 times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of World War I. The only war in U.S. history that cost more was the World War II, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion.

With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per GI (in today’s dollars) was less than $100,000. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per soldier.

America is spending $16 billion a month on running costs alone. Running expenses for 2008 are projected to exceed $12.5 billion a month for Iraq alone, up from $4.4 billion in 2003. A contractor working as a security guard gets about $400,000 a year, more than 10 times what the government spends on a soldier. To save money, if a soldier is injured, he is forced to repay his sign-up bonus.

One soldier was sued for $12,000 for loss of his helmet and equipment even though he had suffered massive brain damage in an attack.

The Pentagon keeps two sets of books. The first is the official casualty list posted on the DoD website. The second, hard-to-find set of data is available only on a different website and can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. This data shows that the total number of soldiers who have been wounded, injured, or suffered from disease is double the number wounded in combat. New research by the Stiglitz/Bilmes team shows that the majority of these injuries and illnesses can be tied directly to service in the war.

After Linda Bilmes published a paper on the cost to veterans, the then-assistant secretary for Health at the Pentagon phoned her and her dean and demanded, “Where did you get these numbers?”

Bilmes said, “I got them from your website, which we now have access to.”
He said, “Oh, that can’t be.”

Bilmes said, “Well, look at your website.”

He said, “Well, fax me my own website.” So she faxed him his website.

Then they took down those websites. Then they directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to change the Veterans’ websites.

This trickery is seen in the president’s proposal for the FY09 budget for veterans. Ostensibly the budget is being increased by $5 billion, But if you look at the fine print, they’re hoping to recoup over $3 billion by increasing the co-pays and all the fees on the veterans who need to use the services.

While shafting the soldiers, the administration insists on “sole-source bidding,” awarding vast, multi-year contracts to Halliburton, et al., instead of putting them out for bids.

“An academic might say, ‘How can you be a free market, yet demand single source contracting?’” asks Joseph E. Stiglitz, co-author of The Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.*
*The Three Trillion DollarWar:The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes. Hardcover: 192 pages
Published byW.W. Norton, NewYork.

(Issue # 12, March 24, 2008)

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