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Five Years In, Cost of Iraq War Far Exceeds Early Estimates

In a follow-up report to a series on the cost of war, Paul Solman examines the new estimates for short- and long-term expenditures related to the ongoing conflict in Iraq -- including military recruitment, equipment and medical treatment for those injured.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Next, a second Iraq story, the cost of the conflict. Ten months ago, as Congress was debating war funding, our economics correspondent Paul Solman tallied the costs. Now, at the fifth anniversary of the war, Paul updates his report.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The cost of the Iraq war, it's a far cry from the original estimates.

    DONALD RUMSFELD, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense: The Office of Management and Budget estimated it would be something under $50 billion.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, Anchor, "This Week": Outside estimates say up to $300 billion.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    Baloney.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The $50 billion estimate turns out to be a modest fraction of what the war has actually cost thus far, the out-of-pocket, mainly military costs.

  • GREG SPEETER, National Priorities Project:

    We're averaging, over the period of the war, about $275 million a day.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Greg Speeter runs the National Priorities Project and its CostofWar.com Web site, which tracks the spending per second. At this point, says Speeter, the total is close to $500 billion.

  • GREG SPEETER:

    That gives you some indication of just how expensive this war is.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But, no, it really doesn't, according to those who've looked at the numbers more broadly. As economist Linda Bilmes explains…

  • LINDA BILMES, Harvard University:

    Even if we withdrew all of our troops from Iraq tomorrow, the war would still keep costing us money for many, many years to come, because there are several long-term costs which are not included in the running cost of the war.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    With Nobel Laureate economist and former Bill Clinton adviser Joe Stiglitz, Bilmes did a cost study in 2006 that got a lot of attention for its bottom line.

  • LINDA BILMES:

    The total cost of the war would be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And now, Bilmes and Stiglitz have a new book that pushes the grand total even higher.

  • LINDA BILMES:

    We now expect, having re-estimated on a very conservative basis, that the total cost of the war will be in the range of $3 trillion.