Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 5, 2008

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict

Filed under: books, politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 9:07 am

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes wrote a new book about the Iraq War called “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.” Gary Kamiya wrote an excellent piece called “The cold price of hot blood” over at

Joseph E. Stiglitz has been a critic of George W. Bush administration before, writing a piece in Vanity Fair called “The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush.”

The first thing to remember about the Iraq War and its costs, as Kamiya points out, is how dismissive Bush administration officials were of more accurate estimates for the wars costs. Recently the White House has turned to a new strategy.

One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11. It is also an investment in the future safety and security of Americans and our vital national interests. $3 trillion? What price does Joe Stiglitz put on attacks on the homeland that have already been prevented? Or doesn’t his slide rule work that way?

It bears repeating that Iraq had next to nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. Secondly, all indications are that the 9/11 attack was carried out by a small but determined band of people upset by the American presence in the Middle East. In this respect, the Iraq War has been a tremendous American policy failure since it has emboldened a new wave of anti-American sentiment throughout the region. Third, how did Mr. Fratto learn of these new attacks on the homeland? Through the torture of prisoners that were suspected of being terrorists, as if any confession given under torture or threat of torture is reliable.

It is really hard to imagine how much money three trillion dollars is. So, we’ll put it in terms of the stock market. Market capitalization is term for the current price of a stock multiplied by the number of outstanding shares. It is approximately how much money it would take to completely buy out the company at present market value. Now, such a value tends to be too low, so let’s say we double the market capitalization on any given company, or put another way, how many companies could be buy with 1.5 trillion.

Company Symbol Market Cap. as of 3/4/08 close
Microsoft MSFT 256 Billion
General Electric GE 335 Billion
Bank of America Corporation BAC 173 Billion
The Walt Disney Company DIS 61 Billion
McDonald’s Corporation MCD 62 Billion
Google Inc. GOOG 140 Billion
Exxon Mobil Corporation XOM 464 Billion

And still have 18 billion left over. Again, we are paying double the current stock price for all these companies and this would purchase all the shares.

The Iraq War may finally come down to a simple reality: can we afford to continue it?  And like the war, we shouldn’t expect a sudden shock, but rather an economic quagmire of higher taxes, and fewer services due to a burdensome debt.

Money is being wasted.   No one is allowed to say, “mistakes were made.”  No on is allowed to say, “we didn’t know.”  The evidence is there, staring us right in the face.  The only question is whether we heed the warnings and respond to it appropriately.


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