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'Iraq War cost so far: $6 trillion': Stiglitz

This lengthy interview and article in today's Guardian by Aida Edemariam is worth reading in full to get the whole story. Here we can only give a few taster quotes.

Stiglitz and Bilmes dug deeper, and what they have discovered, after months of chasing often deliberately obscured accounts, is that in fact Bush's Iraqi adventure will cost America - just America - a conservatively estimated $3 trillion. The rest of the world, including Britain, will probably account for about the same amount again. And in doing so they have achieved something much greater than arriving at an unimaginable figure: by describing the process, by detailing individual costs, by soberly listing the consequences of short-sighted budget decisions, they have produced a picture of comprehensive obfuscation and bad faith whose power comes from its roots in bald fact. Some of their discoveries we have heard before, others we may have had a hunch about, but others are completely new - and together, placed in context, their impact is staggering. There will be few who do not think that whatever the reasons for going to war, its progression has been morally disquieting; following the money turns out to be a brilliant way of getting at exactly why that is.


Thus, any idea that war is good for the economy, Stiglitz and Bilmes argue, is a myth. A persuasive myth, of course, and in specific cases, such as world war two, one that has seemed to be true - but in 1939, America and Europe were in a depression; there was all sorts of possible supply in the market, but people didn't have the cash to buy anything. Making armaments meant jobs, more people with more disposable income, and so on - but peacetime western economies these days operate near full employment. As Stiglitz and Bilmes put it, "Money spent on armaments is money poured down the drain"; far better to invest in education, infrastructure, research, health, and reap the rewards in the long term. But any idea that war can be divorced from the economy is also naive. "A lot of people didn't expect the economy to take over the war as the major issue [in the American election]," says Stiglitz, "because people did not expect the economy to be as weak as it is. I sort of did. So one of the points of this book is that we don't have two issues in this campaign - we have one issue. Or at least, the two are very, very closely linked together."


So quite apart from the war, does he think a particular kind of unfettered market has had its day? "Yes. I think that anybody who believes that the banks know what they're doing has to have their head examined. Clearly, unfettered markets have led us to this economic downturn, and to enormous social problems." Combined with the war, whoever inherits the White House faces a crisis of epic proportions. Where do they go from here? "The way that shapes the debate," says Stiglitz, "is that Americans have to say, 'Even if we stay for another two years, just two years, and we're spending $12bn a month up front in Iraq, and it's costing us another 50% in healthcare, disability, bringing it up to $18bn a month in Iraq, and you look at that in another 24 months, we're talking about half a trillion dollars more for two years - forgetting about the economic cost, the ancillary costs, the social costs - just looking at the budgetary cost - not including the interest - you have to say, is this the way we want to spend a half a trillion dollars? Will it make America stronger? Will it make the Middle East safer? Is this the way we want to spend it?" 

The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, is published by Allen Lane, price £20.

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Iraqis say ...

"Bush speaks of victory but I say he has only achieved one thing for this country, destruction," said Abu Fares al-Daraji, in his tobacco shop on the once-bustling Saadun Street of downtown Baghdad.

"The United States achieved victory for itself by strengthening its control of the region, particularly that Iraq is a strategic country to contain the Iranian threat," said Daraji.

"They only secured their own interests, not those of the Iraqi people," Daraji said.

"The Americans are an extension of Saddam. Decision-making is in their hands and the (Iraqi) government has no sovereignty whatsover.

"There is no victory. The Americans brought our way things we never knew like terrorism and the killings we see on the streets," Daraji added.

Count this, then...

"February saw the lowest number of deaths among U.S. forces since the beginning of the war, with December 2007 being the second lowest, according to the Pentagon."

Resulting in this...

"According to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, just 3% of February's news stories focused on the wars, as compared to 15% in July 2007."

Iraq, East Timor, West Papua, Tibet...

An interesting post by Norman Geras  on the Iraq War: "A rate of death by state violence of 29,000 per year over the life of a regime that has been in power for more than three decades might be considered a powerful reason for favouring its overthrow, in the hope of a less murderous sequel. (It also explains why, in changing my mind about the Iraq war, I continued - and still continue - to think that I could not have opposed it.) "

Saddam was in power for 35 years and his regime internally and externally was arguably responsible for about 1 million dead. Geras is responding to an article in The Guardian by Jonothan Steele and Suzanne Goldberg from which:

"The British polling firm Opinion Research Business (ORB) asked 1,720 Iraqi adults last summer if they had lost family members by violence since 2003; 16% had lost one, and 5% two. Using the 2005 census total of 4,050,597 households in Iraq, this suggests 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion. Accounting for a standard margin of error, ORB says, 'We believe the range is a minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063.'

..."The controversy will clearly run and run, probably long after the Iraq war eventually ends. One thing is certain, and it provides no comfort for Bush, Blair and other occupation supporters. They continue to claim that, whatever errors may have been committed since the invasion, the judgment of history will be that the toppling of a brutal dictatorship was an unmitigated benefit. That alone means the invasion was a blessing for the people of Iraq."

Geras (rightly) disputes that occupation supporters claim that "the toppling of a brutal dictatorship was an unmitigated benefit." The costs to date of Saddam's removal both in lives and real wealth have been huge, and way beyond expectations held by it supporters at the outset of the Iraq War. The human cost of removing Saddam turns out to be of the same order as his record to the point of invasion. Moreover, we cannot assume that over his next 10 + years in power (he was 69 years old when he died in 2006) he would not have continued killing at around 30,000 per year, meaning possibly 300,000 + more deaths.

In other words, leaving Saddam in power would likely have involved non-trivial costs in life and wealth.

There was intervention in Iraq, and lives have been lost and wealth trashed. The conclusion we are invited to draw is that if the intervention had not occurred, those lives and that wealth would have been saved. I do not think many would argue that if Saddam had been left alone, no lives would have been lost as a result, though that conclusion is left to be drawn at times. What is more often asserted in my experience is that less people would have died, and there is no way to verify that.

However, if we adopt the 'save lives by no intervention' strategy generally, there are further and real life-and-death implications.

Consider East Timor, West Papua and the current hot spot, Tibet. East Timor has successfully shed its colonial oppressor, and the indigenous populations of Tibet and West Papua would dearly love to. While no significant number of people outside those last two colonies are arguing for invasion to rescue their people from what is clearly ruthless oppression, invasion is not the only way to exacerbate death and suffering, and arguably, the surest way it can be minimised is for the subject population to accept its fate and make the best of it.

However, the history of colonised peoples is not like that. Indeed it is hard to think of a single member nation of the UN which, at some time in its past has not thrown out a colonialist oppressor, or fought off a would-be one, including the colonialist powers themselves. China, India, Britain, France, Russia, all of SE Asia, all of Africa, all of Latin America, Indonesia, the US... the list is huge. Yet those who for example, applaud the Tibetans who are presently fighting in whatever way for the goal of national independence, are almost certainly helping to add to the death toll in the short term, whatever the (uncertain) results in the long term.

The minimalist path is unspoken but clear: total acquiescence within and passivity without. Unless, of course, whatever is done has prior UN approval. Then, whatever it involves, it is alright.

Lies, Damned lies and ...


There's an ambiguity in the famous quote. It is almost universally read as a warning that, in their appearance of scientific objectivity, statistics can be the greatest lie of all. That is true, but I also have another image. The charlatan, accused, blustering: "lies!". The accusations grow: "damn lies!". Presented with the evidence: "statistics!". It all depends on how you use them. They can be a great lie, a great truth, or anywhere in between.

It is very easy to mislead with statistics, often without realising it, and misleading oneself along with the rest.

Take the estimated average of 30,000 killings per year by the Saddam regime. Absent changed circumstances or an evident trend in the data, and assuming no major anomalies in the data, then the best estimate is that killings would have continued at the same rate.

Ian MacDougall, those assumptions are false, so there are no particular grounds for assuming the killings would have continued at 30,000 pa. There are better grounds for a figure of under 12,000 pa. Still very nasty, but significantly less.

The 30,000 figure is very rough, and comes from the Guardian article:

Estimates of the Iraqi deaths caused by Saddam's regime amount to a maximum of one million over a 35-year period (100,000 Kurds in the Anfal campaign in the 1980s; 400,000 in the war against Iran; 100,000 Shias in the suppressed uprising of 1991; and an unknown number executed in his prisons and torture chambers). Averaged over his time in power, the annual rate does not exceed 29,000.
The first thing to note is that the figures are very round, so, basically we are dealing with ballpark figures. Guesses.

Next is that there are three anomalies: the Anfal; the war with Iran; and the Shia uprising post GW1. During the war with Iran, the USA was egging them on, with the basic hope that Iraq would destroy Iran, and exhaust itself in the process. Then there was the Shia uprising. Those are interesting, but irrelevant. What is not irrelevant is that these were all exceptional events, and more than a decade before the invasion.

To the extend there is a trend, it would appear to be down since 1991. But, given that the figures appear to be a guess at the undelying rate with three anomalies, there is no real evidence of a trend.

Circumstances changed after 1991, with the sanctions, no-fly zones and weapons inspectors, and the general level of scrutiny underlying them. These changed circumstances significantly reduced the likelihood of another anomalous incident, so we are left with the underlying level of brutality, which, on the figures in the article, is under 12,000 pa.

You can reasonably argue for Saddam's culpability for the incidents, and for his willingness to initiate more if the opportunity should arise, but you can't reasonably argue 30,000 a year into the future based on those figures.

"We don't do body counts."

Norman Geras points back to when he was changing his mind about the Iraq War (in October 2006):

... had I been able to foresee, in January and February 2003, that the war would have the results it has actually had in the numbers of Iraqis killed and the numbers now daily dying, with the country (more than three years down the line) on the very threshold of civil war if not already across that threshold, I would not have felt able to support the war and I would not have supported it.

Jack Robertson made the point in It’s the count, not the numbers, that counts, and I agree with Jack, that:

... if you want to go into an oppressed country and play big tough butch-rescuer, all good and fine…but you’ve got to have the intellectual integrity and moral authenticity to square up fully to the nasty side-effects as you do. ALL of them.

If anything, you want to over-stress them, by way of really ’selling’ your hard-headed conviction that the trade-off is worth it.

That, to me, is what real ‘wartime’ leadership is about: taking responsiblity for the ugly bits, not just the heroic shit.

And ALL the ugly bits, too, not a selective, truncated, cherry-picked and sanitised Ugly Bits Lite version. Then making it your wartime job to ’sell that part of the Moral Warrior equation to your people.

No leader -- not Bush, not Blair, not Howard -- faced up to the 'heavy lifting', the task of telling the people they'd been elected to represent about the real likelihood of the ugly bits that could/would be the result of their invasion plan. None of them have shown a genuine commitment to containing the effects on civilians; instead they've not even been counting the human cost.

"We don't do body counts."

The true cost of the Iraq war, how many civilians have died?

The international committee of the Red Cross says millions of Iraqis have little or no access to clean water and healthcare, five years after the US-led invasion.

In a report to mark the anniversary, the Red Cross found some families are spending a third of their monthly wage just to buy clean water.

Red Cross spokesman Michael Khambatta says Iraq's health system is in worse shape than ever.

"Even when there is an improvement on the ground in terms of the political or military situation, the fact is, that will not turn around the health care system that has faced decades of neglect," he said.

The true cost of the Iraq war will never be known, how many Iraqi civilians have died due to the lack of clean drinking water or adequate health care?  

We should talk to Al-Qaeda

Western governments should talk to Islamist extremists including Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to end violence, one of former Prime Minister Tony Blair's closest aides said in comments published Saturday.

"It's very difficult for democratic governments to do -- talk to a terrorist movement that's killing your people," Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell he told The Guardian in an interview.

"(But) if I was in government now I would want to have been talking to Hamas, I would be wanting to communicate with the Taliban and I would want to find a channel to Al-Qaeda."

Powell, who was in the post throughout Blair's premiership from 1997 to 2007, is seen as having been a key behind-the-scenes figure in talks to bring about an end to sectarian violence in the British province of Northern Ireland.

Now that's an idea. Forget "you're with us or you are against us". To end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine we should talk to the extremists. It worked in Northern Ireland and it is the way these other conflicts will be ended.

It is only through finding just solutions that we will prevent the ongoing killing and destruction of nations. It's a hard road and it's certainly easier to bomb and shoot, but in the end we will have to talk.

We Should Talk To Al-Qaeda

John: "To end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine we should talk to the extremists."

I agree. But you have to learn their language first.

Iraqi oil used to finance the insurgency.

The sea of oil under Iraq is supposed to rebuild the nation, then make it prosper. But at least one-third, and possibly much more, of the fuel from Iraq’s largest refinery here is diverted to the black market, according to American military officials. Tankers are hijacked, drivers are bribed, papers are forged and meters are manipulated — and some of the earnings go to insurgents who are still killing more than 100 Iraqis a week.

It’s the money pit of the insurgency,” said Capt. Joe Da Silva, who commands several platoons stationed at the refinery.

Five years after the war in Iraq began, the insurgency remains a lethal force. The steady flow of cash is one reason, even as the American troop buildup and the recruitment of former insurgents to American-backed militias have helped push the number of attacks down to 2005 levels.

In fact, money, far more than jihadist ideology, is a crucial motivation for a majority of Sunni insurgents, according to American officers in some Sunni provinces and other military officials in Iraq who have reviewed detainee surveys and other intelligence on the insurgency.

This extract from a report in the New York Times shows that the dream of financing the Iraq war from the sale of oil was a joke. 

Last year, the Pentagon estimated that as much as 70 percent of the Baiji refinery’s production, or $2 billion in fuels like gasoline, kerosene and diesel, disappeared annually into the black market. Baiji supplies eight provinces.

Tell me again: what are we fighting for in Iraq?

Work Choices (on full pay) for some

"No, the blighter goes off to play golf."

The blighter is entitled to play golf but those he left behind are not entitled to act like a pack of bludgers, taking a pay packet at the tax payers expense while sleeping on the job, claiming lunching out is more important than work, or moonlighting in the Middle East and and and.

These are the guys who would have us believe they could lead this country through hell and high water. Nah, when the going gets tough  they go to water and behave like a bunch of spoilt widdle brats.

Hey Alan, would you employ these lazy bludgers to work for your company?

The Art Of Knitting

Dear Alan, you are still weaving together disparate situations in an attempt to diminish the main argument – that a war in Iraq has cost trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives and produced nothing.

A few second hand car dealer Labor party types in Wollongong on the fiddle doesn't quite cut the grade on the scale of massive crimes against humanity.

Anyone know if they found those shredding machines in Iraq yet?

It occurred to me also what an utterly horrible little creep the last PM actually was as he cried crocodile tears over the abuse of Aboriginal children and then attempted to use it as an election stunt late last year.

Didn't work so what does he do – throw himself into relieving their plight anyway as any honourable person would? Say, like the decent Sir William Deane who could still be found in recent years dishing out food at the Mathew Talbot home in Woolloomooloo...

No, the blighter goes off to play golf.

On a weekly basis

Tom Engelhardt presents an article by William D. Hartung on breaking the cost of the wars down into comprehensible weekly segments. Here are some comparisons:

Glad you asked. If we consider the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan together - which we might as well do, since we and our children and grandchildren will be paying for them together into the distant future - a conservative single-week estimate comes to $3.5 billion. Remember, that's per week!

By contrast, the whole international community spends less than $400 million per year on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the primary institution for monitoring and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons; that's less than one day's worth of war costs. The U.S. government spends just $1 billion per year securing and destroying loose nuclear weapons and bomb-making materials, or less than two days' worth of war costs; and Washington spends a total of just $7 billion per year on combating global warming, or a whopping two weeks' worth of war costs.

Can't help wondering if they have their priorities wrong.


G'day Craig, Here is an interview with Karl Rove in which he outdoes himself. He is responding to Obama's comments on how $12billion/month now being spent on the war could be better spent. Video and transcript.

WALLACE: If he’s able to define Iraq in terms of where do you spend that $12 billion, on the battlefield over there or on infrastructure and social programs here, doesn’t Obama win?

ROVE: Well, Obama — it’s a good argument for Obama, but I’m wondering where it goes, because it really is a very neo-isolationist argument. It basically says, you know, We should not be involved in the world because of the consequences to the budget here at home.

Well, we were not involved in the world before 9/11, and look what happened. Look at the cost to the American economy after a terrorist attack on the homeland. We lost a million jobs in 90 days after 9/11.

If we were to give up Iraq with the third largest oil reserves in the world to the control of an Al Qaida regime or to the control of Iran, don’t you think $200 a barrel oil would have a cost to the American economy?

Let's look at the start of the second paragraph of Rove's answer again:

 Well, we were not involved in the world before 9/11 ...

Ground control to Mr Rove ...

Then the matter of giving up Iraq and its oil reserves. That would be the free and sovereign Iraq, would it?

Known knowns

When the invasion of Iraq began the then chief economic adviser to the Bush administration, Larry Lindsey, estimated a "known unknown" --the cost. He said it would cost between $US100 billion and $US200 billion.

For that piece of "quasi-honesty" he was fired. The then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said 'baloney'. He thought his own estimate of the "known unknown" was better. $US50 to $US60 billion he estimated.

So now it is a "known known" that the neocons' war (Iraq theatrequagmire) has cost $3 trillion so far, it's gotta also be a "known known" that Rumy's call of 'baloney' was baloney.

Known known

Craig Rowley, a government grant will help fund the Tree of Knowledge memorial site in outback Queensland to the tune of $2.6 million. What next - $2.6 million to preserve the "Table of Knowledge" in Wollongong where Labor conducts its bribes and corruption? It looks as though it has started: once Labor gets its sticky fingers on the treasury anything can happen.

To the tune of $3 trillion

Alan, I'd have thought you can count.


That's like 2.97 million million times more than what you're whinging about.

And not even a word about the people responsible for the killing.

Spending your way out of depression.

This brings US spending for its military establishment during the current fiscal year (2008), conservatively calculated, to at least $1.1 trillion.

Such expenditures are not only morally obscene, they are fiscally unsustainable. Many neo-conservatives and poorly informed patriotic Americans believe that, even though our defense budget is huge, we can afford it because we are the richest country on Earth.

Unfortunately, that statement is no longer true. The world's richest political entity, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, is the European Union. The EU's 2006 GDP (gross domestic product - all goods and services produced domestically) was estimated to be slightly larger than that of the US However, China's 2006 GDP was only slightly smaller than that of the US, and Japan was the world's fourth-richest nation.

A more telling comparison that reveals just how much worse we're doing can be found among the "current accounts" of various nations. The current account measures the net trade surplus or deficit of a country plus cross-border payments of interest, royalties, dividends, capital gains, foreign aid, and other income.

For example, for Japan to manufacture anything, it must import all required raw materials. Even after this incredible expense is met, it still has an $88 billion per year trade surplus with the United States and enjoys the world's second-highest current account balance. (China is number one.) The United States, by contrast, is number 163 - dead last on the list, worse than countries like Australia and the United Kingdom that also have large trade deficits. Its 2006 current account deficit was $811.5 billion; second worst was Spain at $106.4 billion. This is what is unsustainable.

It's not just that our tastes for foreign goods, including imported oil, vastly exceed our ability to pay for them. We are financing them through massive borrowing. On November 7, 2007, the US Treasury announced that the national debt had breached $9 trillion for the first time ever. This was just five weeks after Congress raised the so-called debt ceiling to $9.815 trillion. If you begin in 1789, at the moment the constitution became the supreme law of the land, the debt accumulated by the federal government did not top $1 trillion until 1981. When Bush became president in January 2001, it stood at approximately $5.7 trillion. Since then, it has increased by 45%. This huge debt can be largely explained by our defense expenditures in comparison with the rest of the world.

The world's top 10 military spenders and the approximate amounts each country currently budgets for its military establishment are:

1. United States (FY08 budget), $623 billion
2. China (2004), $65 billion
3. Russia, $50 billion
4. France (2005), $45 billion
5. Japan (2007), $41.75 billion
6. Germany (2003), $35.1 billion
7. Italy (2003), $28.2 billion
8. South Korea (2003), $21.1 billion
9. India (2005 est.), $19 billion
10. Saudi Arabia (2005 est.), $18 billion

World total military expenditures (2004 est.), $1,100 billion
World total (minus the United States), $500 billion.

Our excessive military expenditures did not occur over just a few short years or simply because of the Bush administration's policies. They have been going on for a very long time in accordance with a superficially plausible ideology and have now become entrenched in our democratic political system where they are starting to wreak havoc. This ideology I call "military Keynesianism" - the determination to maintain a permanent war economy and to treat military output as an ordinary economic product, even though it makes no contribution to either production or consumption.

This ideology goes back to the first years of the Cold War. During the late 1940s, the US was haunted by economic anxieties. The Great Depression of the 1930s had been overcome only by the war production boom of World War II. With peace and demobilization, there was a pervasive fear that the Depression would return.

US military spending is now over $1.1 trillion dollars per year.  The US has the world's worst current account deficit ($811 billion in 2006). Is 2008 going to be the year that the world decides it can longer afford to support the US and its dreams of world domination?

Blowing in the wind...

And scattered who knows where, Craig. Not a lot of good for Iraq seems to have come from all the money thrown around. Now it is policy to pay insurgents - a reminder from an article previously linked on Lest we forget Iraq. And today.

Not forgetting that Afghanistan is part of the equation

After six years of US-led military support and billions of pounds in aid, security in Afghanistan is "deteriorating" and President Hamid Karzai's government controls less than a third of the country, America's top intelligence official has admitted.

Mike McConnell testified in Washington that Karzai controls about 30% of Afghanistan and the Taliban 10%, and the remainder is under tribal control.

The Afghan government angrily denied the US director of national intelligence's assessment yesterday, insisting it controlled "over 360" of the country's 365 districts. "This is far from the facts and we completely deny it," said the defence ministry.

But the gloomy comments echoed even more strongly worded recent reports by thinktanks, including one headed by the former Nato commander General James Jones, which concluded that "urgent changes" were required now to "prevent Afghanistan becoming a failed state".

Not much of a return for all the money invested. But then that depends on what outcome was desired.

Yes, I remember.

G'day Craig, search "pallets" and the following was the first on the list:

The Irises 

Submitted by Bob Wall on February 8, 2007 - 6:34am.

Which included :

 Where did the money go?

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), leading a Congressional review of possible U.S. waste and fraud in Iraq, sought answers from former Iraq Provisional Authority leader L. Paul Bremer today.

"House Democrats, taking charge of investigations now that they control Congress, grilled the former U.S. occupation chief in Iraq on Tuesday about the way he doled out billions of Iraqi dollars without accounting for the money," the Associated Press reports.

Over $4 billion in cash, which came from Iraqi oil exports and other sources, was sent by the Federal Reserve to Baghdad on pallets aboard U.S. military planes just before government control was given back to the Iraqis, Reuters says. The bills reportedly weighed hundreds of tons.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," Waxman said, according to Reuters.

Sort of pennies from Heaven after accounting for inflation.

Accounting for inflation

Thanks, Bob.

Some of that $US4 billion in greenbacks may have gone to insurgents, but I wonder how much would have ended up cycling through the international banking system, eventually spawning many more times worth of liquidity into the global financial system?

And how much of the $US8.8 billion dollars that went missing in 2004 after being entrusted to the CPA in Iraq?

And how much of the $US20 billion dollars in oil revenues and other Iraqi funds intended to rebuild the country that disappeared from banks administered by the CPA?

Most of it, I suspect, and all that credit creation along the way, probably accounts for a good deal of the 65% inflation rate experienced in Iraq in 2006.

Tonnes of cash

Anyone recall seeing the news about the 363 tonnes of cash loaded into pallets and transported via military transport aircraft into Iraq shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis?

And again, this time with video.

DemocracyNow! devotes an entire program to Stiglitz and Bilmes. 45 min video, audio and transcript.

It begins with the interview with Bush I featured yesterday - Laura is not wearing a "I'm with stupid" T-shirt, but judge for yourselves her expression.

With thanks.

Dylan Kissane, thank you for reminding us of yet another crime the US had either complicity in or turned a blind eye to.

'Chemical Ali'

According to the BBC:

The execution of Saddam Hussein's cousin and henchman "Chemical Ali" has been approved by Iraq's presidency. He was condemned to death for his role in the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds in northern Iraq, in which an estimated 180,000 people died.

Chemical Ali - real name Hassan al-Majid - was convicted on genocide charges and initially sentenced to death in June last year.

The warrant was signed two days ago and is to be carried out within 28 days.

Background on the Al-Anfal campaign from Wiki here.

On the other hand ...

Someone might think that good has come from it. Here is one example - Tom Engelhardt and Frida Berrigan Traq 2003-2008 ,Two Recipes for Disaster.

In the week that oil prices once again crested above $100 a barrel and more Americans than at any time since the Great Depression owed more on their homes than the homes were worth; in the year that the subprime market crashed, global markets shuddered, the previously unnoticed credit-default swap market threatened to go into the tank, stagflation returned, unemployment rose, the "R" word (for recession) hit the headlines (while the "D" word lurked), within weeks of the fifth anniversary of his invasion of Iraq, the President of the United States officially discovered the war economy.

George W. Bush and Laura Bush were being interviewed by NBC's Ann Curry when the subject turned to the war in Iraq. Curry reminded the President that his wife had once said, "No one suffers more than their president. I hope they know the burden of worry that's on his shoulders every single day for our troops." The conversation continued thusly:


"Bush: And as people are now beginning to see, Iraq is changing, democracy is beginning to tak[e] hold. And I'm convinced 50 years from now people look back and say thank God there was those who were willing to sacrifice.

"Curry: But you're saying you're going to have to carry that burden... Some Americans believe that they feel they're carrying the burden because of this economy.

"Bush: Yeah, well --

"Curry: They say -- they say they're suffering because of this.

"Bush: I don't agree with that.

"Curry: You don't agree with that? Has nothing do with the economy, the war? The spending on the war?

"Bush: I don't think so. I think actually, the spending on the war might help with jobs.

"Curry: Oh, yeah?

"Bush: Yeah, because we're buying equipment, and people are working. I think this economy is down because we built too many houses."

In other words, in honor of the soon-to-arrive fifth anniversary of his war without end, the President has offered a formula for economic success in bad times that might be summed up this way: less houses, more bases, more weaponry, more war. This, of course, comes from the man who, between 2001 and today, presided over an official Pentagon budget that leapt by more than 60% from $316 billion to $507 billion, and by more than 30% since Iraq was invaded. Looked at another way, between 2001 and the latest emergency supplemental request to pay for his wars (first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq), supplemental funding for war-fighting has jumped from $17 billion to $189 billion, an increase of 1,011%. At the same time, almost miraculously, the U.S. armed forces have been driven to the edge of the military equivalent of default.

Then on to the recipes - and who feasted. Yes, Richard, some very familiar names amongst those who stuffed themselves.

A long road and a big bill.

Karen Kwiatkowski on the cause and effect and what could be done.

Let me start first with the consequences of our foreign policy in the Middle East, circa 2008.

  • We are nearly five years past the moment where George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished."
  • 400,000 to 1.2 million Iraqis are dead by our decisions and actions. Over two million are internally displaced, and over two million Iraqis have fled the country.
  • 5,000 Americans are dead (soldiers and contractors) as a result, 30–50,000 physically injured, and over 100,000 mentally disturbed, receiving or awaiting treatment.
  • Army and Marines are morally and physically bankrupt – and burdened by executive pressure for more forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and trouble in Iran.
  • A trillion dollars has been spent, another trillion to be spent before we are finished – and if McCain has his way, we will never be finished, and we will bleed ourselves for the duration of the 21st century.
  • Beyond Iraq, we have Secretary of Defense Bob Gates alternately screaming in an empty room and crying in despair because NATO won’t pick up the slack of propping up our preferred government in Kabul.
  • The one republic with nuclear weapons and a means to deploy them is led by an unstable dictator, threatened by his own subordinates, at odds with his very powerful and well-funded intelligence arm, and disliked by the majority of his citizens. And in case you were wondering, I am talking about Perez Musharraf.
  • Jordan, once reliable and trustworthy, is feeling the heat of over two million unemployed and impoverished Iraqis swelling their refugee camps.
  • Syria – who helped us with torture and renditions after 9-11 – has been both accused and attacked by her neighbor, our other nuclear-armed friend in the region.
  • Lebanon suffered a silly war in the summer of 2006 – a war that was considered an embarrassing defeat for Israel, and a war that Washington, D.C. collaborated on and quietly cheered.
  • Our steadfast friends, the House of Saud, don’t understand us anymore.
  • We publicly threaten Iran for all kinds of reasons, even though Tehran is signatory to and compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and even as we happily work with all kinds of Iranian-backed interests in southern Iraq.
  • Four key undersea communication cables get cut in a week, isolating and seriously degrading much of the banking and communication traffic for our friends in the region, including in Dubai, which just bailed out some of our banks and credit card companies. Instead of decrying bad cable construction, and offering to send our own teams to help repair these cables in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, our government has said nothing. The entire region thinks we did it, either to send a message, test a military strategy, or to funnel information into a channel our vast intelligence bureaucracy can monitor.
  • The price of oil, adjusted for inflation, is not yet at the level of the 1979 oil crisis. But it is within 10% of that. Given the drastic increase in global demand for oil today, relative to that in 1979, our foreign policy in the Middle East might be said to be harmful, but not disastrous. But you must consider two things – the amount of oil the United States imports from the Middle East is around 10–15% of all the oil we import – but interfering with the free market in this region costs the American taxpayer billions and billions every year in maintaining a large overseas military presence, military and economic aid to major and minor allies in the region, the costs of periodic off-the-book interventions, like Iraq, and the costs involved with protecting your countrymen from people who hate you enough to want to kill you and topple your tall buildings.

Such is the state of the Middle East, and such indeed are the consequences of our foreign policy.

A quote from the article to introduce the next item: 

In their propaganda today's dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalization – the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State.

Zbigniew Brzezinski - Terrorized by 'War on Terror".

The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

And what would all that cost?

McCain pessimistic on Iraq handover

A fun one, this. In the midst of nitpicking with Obama about Iraq ...

McCain warned, "If we left Iraq, there's no doubt that al Qaeda would then gain control of Iraq and then pose a threat to the United States of America."

So, by implication, he thinks that the last five years have brought exactly zero progress in the process of handing over to a democratic Iraq and in defeating al Qaeda.

Someone Benefits From War

Always has.

I was just contrasting this obscene figure with the completely misleading and unjust headline in this morning's Australian about indigenous health "STRAIN: Aborigines big users of public health services"

Strain !. What an outrageous and misleading word to use that yet again re-enforces the myth that Aboriginal people somehow receive rivers of public funding handouts, "sit-down" money or as a friend of mine still insists,"2 pensions".

But a war costing trillions ,and one that has cost us billions ,that has produced nothing of value except death and destruction receives barely a mention.

Then again, as Rupert Murdoch put it in 2004-"The Iraq War is going gangbusters and the price of oil will be halved". Sure. 


I was starting to think along the lines of Cheney and co "monetising" before I reached this par:

I ask what discoveries Stiglitz found the most disturbing. He laughs, somewhat mirthlessly. "There were actually so many things - some of it we suspected, but there were a few things I couldn't believe." The fact that a contractor working as a security guard gets about $400,000 a year, for example, as opposed to a soldier, who might get about $40,000. That there is a discrepancy we might have guessed - but not its sheer scale, or the fact that, because it is so hard to get insurance for working in Iraq, the government pays the premiums; or the fact that, if these contractors are injured or killed, the government pays both death and injury benefits on top. Understandably, this has forced a rise in sign-up bonuses (as has the fact that the army is so desperate for recruits that it is signing up convicted felons). "So we create a competition for ourselves. Nobody in their right mind would have done that. The Bush administration did that ... that I couldn't believe. And that's not included in the cost the government talks about."

This is what I consider to be the cleverness in war creation.  It's a high-level form of embezzlement.  History will one day record this as the true genius of the neocons.

Another version.

David, I had previously (25/2) linked this article from Timesonline on the  the Lest we forget Iraq thread.

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was
wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a
quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more
than anyone could have imagined.

The cost of direct US military operations - not even 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.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost
ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost
of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in
our history which cost more was the Second World War, 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 (that's $5
million million, or £2.5 million million). With virtually the entire armed
forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop
(in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast,
the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid
by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure
has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been
raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen.
Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be
repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are
not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred,
possibly to another generation.

My comment was that I thought the money could have been be better spent. If we think about people who raise the high cost of dealing with climate change and then look at the (ongoing) costs of Bush's wars, well, questions are raised about priorities. Do people not see? Or not want to see?


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