The Iraq War: How We Spent $800 Billion (and Counting)

by Evan Wexler and Bill Rockwood

The Iraq war cost twice as much as the war in Afghanistan, and more than 16 times as much as the Bush administration predicted. But what did we pay for?

What did the iraq war really cost?

Drag the icons
below to add up costs

Department of

Department of


and relief

Post war

$50 — 60 billion Initial projection by
Bush Administration

$100 — 200 billion Estimate by White House economic policy advisor Lawrence Lindsey. He was later fired, in part for this projection

$00.0 B


Sources: U.S. State Department, Department of Defense, Congressional Research Service, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction

In Iraq, the U.S. spent billions fighting, but also rebuilding after the invasion and years of sanctions left the country in shambles, a reconstruction project beset by poor oversight and waste, according to an inspector general report.

There have also been costs at home: caring for the estimated 1.5 million men and women who served in Iraq, and in particular, supporting the families of the 4,422 who died, and repairing the 31,926 who came back wounded.

And then there’s the money that was wasted. A government report to be released Wednesday estimates as much as $60 billion was squandered collectively on fraud and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Other costs can’t be fully tallied. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes estimated that the Iraq war could end up costing the U.S. as much as $3 trillion — a figure they’ve since said may be too low. Their calculation, which some have criticized for being too hypothetical, takes into account less tangible costs: resources the U.S. could have spent in Afghanistan without the distraction of a second invasion; the rising price of oil, which they attribute to the conflict; and the addition to the federal debt when the government cut taxes before going to war.

Other future expenses are all but certain to add to the bottom line. How much will we pay to care for the war’s veterans in the decades to come? The U.S. State Department spent $3 billion in 2012 on its post-war mission in the new Iraq — how much more will it spend in the years ahead? And how many political and security costs can’t yet be foreseen?

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