Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003, researchers have released the first comprehensive analysis of direct and indirect human and economic costs of the war that followed.
According to the report, the war has killed at least 190,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians and will cost the United States $2.2 trillion — a figure that far exceeds the initial 2002 estimates by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget of $50 to $60 billion.
The report was released by the Costs of War project, based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. Catherine Lutz, the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University, co-directs the project with Neta C. Crawford, professor of political science at Boston University.
Among the group’s main findings:
- More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
- The Iraq War will ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion.
- Th $2.2 trillion figure includes care for veterans who were injured in the war in Iraq, which will cost the United States almost $500 billion through 2053.
- The total of U.S. service members killed in Iraq is 4,488. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors have died as well, a number often under-reported.
- 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 $60 billion spent on reconstruction for Iraq has not gone to rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, health care, and water treatment systems, but primarily to the military and police. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.
In releasing the report, Lutz said, “The staggering number of deaths in Iraq is hard to fathom, but each of these individuals has to count and be counted.”
“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,” Crawford said.
The project also assesses claims made as part of the rationale for invading Iraq: increased U.S. security, enhanced democratic governance in Iraq, and improved conditions for Iraqi women.
Costs of War has released its findings online, at www.costsofwar.org, to spur public discussion about the Iraq war.
The Costs of War project involves 30 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists from 15 universities, the United Nations, and other organizations. In 2011 the group released figures for a range of human and economic costs associated with the U.S. military response to the 9/11 attacks. It estimated the total combined costs of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan at $4 trillion and total direct war casualties at minimum oft 330,000 men, women, and children.
Costs of War is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, scholarly initiative that derives its purpose from President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address, in which he warned of the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex and appealed for an “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” as the only force able to balance the often contrasting demands of security and liberty in a democratic state.
The Watson Institute’s Choices Program, which develops curricula on current and historical international issues, offers two online lessons related to the Iraq War: One on the Costs of War report and one on the Iraq refugee crisis.