The report also found that American taxpayers will ultimately spend roughly $2.2 trillion on the war, but because the U.S. government borrowed to finance the conflict, interest payments through the year 2053 means that the total bill could reach nearly $4 trillion.
“Nearly every government that goes to war underestimates its duration, neglects to tally all the costs, and overestimates the political objectives that will be accomplished by war’s violence,” said Boston University professor of political science and project co-director Neta C. Crawford.
Indeed, the war devastated the Iraqi health care system and allowed militants to hone their skills and export them to neighboring conflicts:
- Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries.
- Iraq’s health care infrastructure remains devastated from sanctions and war. More than half of Iraq’s medical doctors left the country during the 2000s, and tens of thousands of Iraqi patients are forced to seek health care outside the country.
The Watson Institute project — which involves “30 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists from 15 universities, the United Nations, and other organizations” — comes on the heals of the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction’s final report released last week finding that the U.S. spent $60 billion on reconstruction efforts in Iraq and that $10 billion of it was wasted on fraud and abuse.
Reuters reported that Steven Bucci, the military assistant to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the run-up to the war and today a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, didn’t dispute the report’s findings but said the U.S.’s post-invasion battles with al-Qaeda in Iraq — a group that did not exist prior to March 19, 2003 — made the war worth it.
“It was really in Iraq that ‘al Qaeda central’ died,” Bucci said. “They got waxed.”
Meanwhile, the AP reported this afternoon that “a string of explosions tore through central Baghdad within minutes of each other on Thursday, followed by what appeared to be a coordinated assault by gunmen who battled security forces in the Iraqi capital.” The AP said the attack — which reportedly killed 12 people — “bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda’s Iraq arm.”