{ An Autopsy of Democracy }

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Costs of war to top $320 billion

The Senate will likely pass another emergency spending bill the president has requested, sending the price far higher than any original estimates.

James Rosen, Star Tribune

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate this week is expected to pass an emergency spending bill providing $71 billion for military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing total Iraq war costs to at least $320 billion and generating calls for a more transparent handling of those costs.

This will be the fourth emergency spending measure President Bush has sought from Congress. While the Iraq spending bills have gained huge majorities from lawmakers, Republicans are beginning to join Democrats in criticizing the use of emergency funding bills to pay for the war, a practice that keeps the costs from adding to the normal federal budget.

"The whole idea of this [as] supplemental is something the American people should reject," said Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican. "We have been in a war now going into the fourth year. We should have the money for funding this war as part of the regular budget. It should not be an emergency supplemental."

The Bush administration defends the practice on the grounds of the unpredictable nature of spending on the war.

The war certainly has cost more than the administration originally hoped.

When Lawrence Lindsey, then President Bush's top economic adviser, said in September 2002 that war in Iraq might cost the United States as much as $200 billion, other top aides rebuked him and Bush fired him three months later.

Lindsey's projection was indeed way off the mark -- on the low side.

Soaring costs driven by the harsh Iraqi climate's wear and tear on tanks, trucks and helicopters have more than tripled U.S. spending on equipment -- from $7.2 billion in 2003 to $24.4 billion this year -- according to a new report by the bipartisan Congressional Research Service.

The Iraq campaign's total cost is still well behind the $549 billion price tag for the decade-long war in Vietnam, after adjusting for inflation. But the government's rate of spending on Iraq has outpaced the average spending rate in Vietnam, passing $8 billion a month.

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