20 years on — Iraq war costs still rising

March 22, 2023
The Iraq war has displaced 9.2 million people to date. Photo: Green Left

As the 20th anniversary of the United States-led invasion and occupation of Iraq approached, a leading research institute said on March 15 that "the total costs of the war in Iraq and Syria are expected to exceed half a million human lives and US$2.89 trillion" by 2050.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs said that "this budgetary figure includes costs to date, estimated at about $1.79 trillion, and the costs of veterans' care through 2050".

According to the project: “March 19-20, 2023 marks 20 years since United States forces invaded Iraq to oust dictator Saddam Hussein, under the false claim that his regime was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. The ensuing war, in which US ground presence peaked in 2007 with over 170,000 soldiers, caused massive death, destruction, and political instability in Iraq. Among the consequences was the increase of sectarian politics, widespread violence, and the rise of the Islamic State militant group with its terror attacks throughout the Middle East.


Costs of War project report
At least 38 million people were displaced by the post-9/11 wars. Image: Costs of War project report, Watson Institute, Brown University

“Though the US government officially ended its Iraq War in 2011, the repercussions of the invasion and occupation as well as subsequent and ongoing military interventions have had an enormous human, social, economic and environmental toll. An estimated 300,000 people have died from direct war violence in Iraq, while the reverberating effects of war continue to kill and sicken hundreds of thousands more.”

The new report includes estimates for Syria, which the US began bombing during the Barack Obama administration after Islamic State militants rose to power amid the destabilisation and power vacuum caused by the Iraq invasion and Syrian civil war. Including Syria, the Costs of War Project says between 550,000‒580,000 people have been killed since March 2003, and "several times as many may have died due to indirect causes such as preventable diseases".


Cost of the Iraq war
9.2 million people have been displaced as a result of the Iraq War to date. Image: Costs of War Report, Watson Institute, Brown University

"More than 7 million people from Iraq and Syria are currently refugees, and nearly 8 million people are internally displaced in the two countries," the publication notes.

University of Oxford professor and Costs of War Project co-director Neta C Crawford, who authored the report, said in a statement that "the Bush administration was convinced and assured the American people and the world that the war would have few casualties of all kinds — civilian and military — and would lead to quick victory".

"As the Costs of War Project has documented consistently, these optimistic assumptions are confronted by a record of death, high and ongoing costs, and regional devastation," she added.

Those ongoing costs include a recent $397.5 million budget request from the Biden administration to fight what's left of Islamic State.

[Reprinted from Common Dreams.]

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