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Iraq, Afghanistan wars could cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade = $8,000 per man, woman and child in U.S.

Appropriations for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the  War on Terrorism, in billions of dollars [Congressional Budget Office]Two days after the Bush administration requested $196 billion for wars in 2008 (up 30% from its February estimate of $145 billion)—on top of a $481 billion request for the Pentagon’s 2008 allowance (up 11% from 2007, and 62% from 2001) . . .

Congressional Budget Office figures released Wednesday, Oct. 24, estimate that total spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “and other activities related to the war on terrorism” may amount to between $1.2 trillion and $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2017. Counting interest (we’re fighting on borrowed money), the costs over the next decade could reach $2.4 trillion. The costs may go higher. Iraq alone accounts for $1.9 trillion, including about $564 million in interest. This latest estimate is more than 40 times higher than the Bush administration’s initial (2003) estimates of about $50 billion. The CBO’s projection assumes that 75,000 troops will still be in Iraq ten years from now. A report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments says the Iraq + Afghanistan wars’ present subtotal of $604 billion exceeds the combined costs of the wars in Korea and Vietnam (adjusted for inflation).

(Tim Grieve of Salon’s War Room observes, “the additional $46 billion the president seeks today is about one-and-a-half times as much as the amount Bush says the government can’t possibly spend over the next five years on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.” • A New York Times editorial hits a similar note, and strikes hard: “President Bush waited until he had vetoed a relatively inexpensive children’s health insurance bill before asking for tens of billions of dollars more for his misadventure in Iraq. The cynicism of that maneuver is only slightly less shameful than the president’s distorted priorities.”)

CBO director Peter Orszag met with the House Committee on the Budget today—that is, with 13 of the committee’s 21 Democrats, and 3 of the 15 Republicans, according to MSNBC—to warn, “it’s clear under analysis that the nation is on an unstable fiscal path . . . with the higher debt and interest costs, is going to cause severe economic dislocation, which are exacerbated by war costs.” [sic]

Congressional Budget Office officials, asked whether these figures represent a worst-case scenario, said the estimate is only the worst of the two projections the CBO priced out. Actual costs could go higher.

White House press secretary Dana Perino dismissed the nonpartisan CBO’s projections as “just a ton of speculation.” She added, “I’m not worried about the number. What I’m worried about is making sure that the president gets what he needs in order to provide the safety and security for the country.”

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