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The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict [Kindle Edition]

Linda J. Bilmes , Joseph E. Stiglitz
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The true cost of the Iraq War is $3 trillion—and counting—rather than the $50 billion projected by the White House.

Apart from its tragic human toll, the Iraq War will be staggeringly expensive in financial terms. This sobering study by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda J. Bilmes casts a spotlight on expense items that have been hidden from the U.S. taxpayer, including not only big-ticket items like replacing military equipment (being used up at six times the peacetime rate) but also the cost of caring for thousands of wounded veterans—for the rest of their lives. Shifting to a global focus, the authors investigate the cost in lives and economic damage within Iraq and the region. Finally, with the chilling precision of an actuary, the authors measure what the U.S. taxpayer's money would have produced if instead it had been invested in the further growth of the U.S. economy. Written in language as simple as the details are disturbing, this book will forever change the way we think about the war.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers may be surprised to learn just how difficult it was for Nobel Prize-winning economist Stiglitz and Kennedy School of Government professor Bilmes to dig up the actual and projected costs of the Iraq War for this thorough piece of accounting. Using "emergency" funds to pay for most of the war, the authors show that the White House has kept even Congress and the Comptroller General from getting a clear idea on the war's true costs. Other expenses are simply overlooked, one of the largest of which is the $600 billion going toward current and future health care for veterans. These numbers reveal stark truths: improvements in battlefield medicine have prevented many deaths, but seven soldiers are injured for every one that dies (in WWII, this ratio was 1.6 to one). Figuring in macroeconomic costs and interest-the war has been funded with much borrowed money-the cost rises to $4.5 trillion; add Afghanistan, and the bill tops $7 trillion. This shocking expose, capped with 18 proposals for reform, is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how the war was financed, as well as what it means for troops on the ground and the nation's future.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


'If you have to trust somebody in matters of economics, you could do worse than a Nobel Prize-winning former chief economist of the World Bank ... the superb achievement of this book, however, is how little you do have to take on trust' - Sam Leith, Telegraph

Product Details

  • File Size: 670 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 17, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0041OTAY8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,852 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
162 of 170 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, Yet Credible and Comprehensible! March 4, 2008
Three trillion dollars for the war in Iraq is an incredible amount, almost beyond comprehension, and certainly far beyond the figures provided by the Bush administration. Yet this total is made both credible and comprehensible through the documentation of Joseph Stiglitz (2001 Nobel Prize-winner in economics, and Professor at Columbia) and Linda Bilmes, Harvard University expert on public policy and finance.

Compelling alternative uses for the money are numerous. For example, we could have put Social Security on sound financial footing for a fraction of that cost, and avoided the nearly 4,000 American deaths (plus $500,000/death benefits) and 100,000 estimated Iraqi deaths - plus an untold number of seriously wounded and their long-term disability and health costs. (Stiglitz found that 40% of Gulf War troops were declared disabled, and that was only a one month war; he sees Pentagon estimates of Gulf War II wounded and disabled as grossly understated, and documents that conclusion. Another key point - peak disability expenditures for WWII veterans did not occur until 1993; thus this war will affect spending decades into the future.) Alternatively, America's trillion dollar+ infrastructure needs could be met with only half that expense.

Other costs include skyrocketing re-enlistment bonuses (up to $150,000 - their alternative is personal safety or much higher-paid private security work), the extra costs of using reserve and guard troops, up to $1,222/day for private security guards to replace servicemen paid less than one-sixth that, lost billions to reconstruct Iraq and spent in non-competitive bidding, and massive equipment replacement costs.
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of those very rare endeavors that is a tour d'force on multiple fronts, and easy to read and understand to boot.

It is a down-to-earth, capably documented indictment of the Bush-Cheney Administration's malicious or delusional--take your pick--march to war on false premises.

As a policy "speaking truth to power" book; as an economic treatise, as an academic contribution to the public debate, and as a civic duty, this book is extraordinary.

Highlights that sparked my enthusiasm:

1) Does what no one else has done, properly calculates and projects the core cost of war--and the core neglect of the Bush-Cheney Administration in justifying, excusing, and concealing the true cost of war: it fully examines the costs of caring for returning veterans (which some may recall, return at a rate of 16 to 1 instead of the older 6 to 1 ratio of surviving wounded to dead on the battlefield).

2) Opens with a superb concise overview of the trade-off costs--what the cost of war could have bought in terms of education, infrastructure, housing, waging peace, etcetera. I am particularly taken with the authors' observation that the cost of 10 days of this war, $5 billion, is what we give to the entire continent of Africa in a year of assistance.

3) Fully examines how costs exploded--personnel costs, fuel costs, and costs of replacing equipment. The authors do NOT address two important factors:

+ Military Construction under this Administration has boomed. Every Command and base has received scores of new buildings, a complete face lift, EXCEPT for the WWII-era huts where those on the way to Iraq and Afghanistan are made to suffer for three months before they actually go to war.
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69 of 77 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I generally have a hard time dealing with writing that deals with accounting. I was not a business major, and it is hard for me to follow some of the monetary flows. It was startling to me when I discovered that this book was very easy to follow and was written for the average person. It is well written, with wonderful documentation and an easy to read and follow style.

The numbers presented are mind boggling and numbing. How do you account for such huge numbers, and why haven't we known before that the numbers were this big? The answer lies, primarily, in accounting tricks used by the government to hide certain expenses of to put them off onto other budgets so that the true cost could never be accurately accounted for. It's quite a statement that the DOD flunked its last 7 audits; a trick that would send private company executives to prison.

If you really want to know what the war will cost, where each of those costs is hidden and what those costs consist of, then this book is well worth the money. Every American should read this book now, before the election, to truly understand how we have been hoodwinked.
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81 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America exports it's corruption to Iraq March 2, 2008
This book not only describes the cost of the Iraq War long term, but explains how billions of dollars were wasted in Iraq due to the total corruption of the Bush administration, starting with Bush refusing to allow open bidding on the contracts to rebuild Iraq. Those contract then went to his or the Vice President's cronies. In addition the Bush administration makes no mention of the long term costs of the injured soldiers returning from Iraq. Bush has also lied to the American people about the number of injured soldiers and after being caught on the government's own web site, they took the site down.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent book on the true cost of Bush's war
Published 3 months ago by Archibald W Hutchinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good analysis, reasonable projection of fiscal impacts into the ...
There is so much in here I wish the wider public would read but they don't. Good analysis, reasonable projection of fiscal impacts into the future and a whole lot of useful insight... Read more
Published 4 months ago by rob532
5.0 out of 5 stars The True cost of Destroying Iraq
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have being doing their sums with regard to the total cost of the War in Iraq to the United States. Read more
Published 21 months ago by S Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars The Iraq war triggered the Great Recession
Stiglitz spells out in detail what the illegal Iraq war has really cost America -- and the world. This book has the facts the bushies don't want made public. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Wikileaker
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissatisfied
I'll be brief. Too much opinion, too much partisanship, all presented too early on. I can listen to the media and get all the out-front liberal and conservative bias I can handle. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Fred Longworth
5.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant in 2013
As the war costs increase, the initial study is more and more relevant. Linda Bilmes has now estimated the cost at $4 to $6 trillion, based on the same "categories" of costs... Read more
Published 24 months ago by JB Kemble
5.0 out of 5 stars Estimate of the Costs of the War to Taxpayers and Participants
Joseph Stiglitz (2001 Nobel Prize in Economics) presents a conservative estimate of the costs of the Middle East Wars to Taxpayers, Participants and their Families. Read more
Published on December 28, 2011 by Wilfred J. Braithwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars Stiglitz is spot on!
I bought this book yesterday and finished it in 24 hours, as I could not put it down.

Stiglitz is not only a skilled economist, but also a great scribe who speaks the... Read more
Published on December 17, 2011 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, but indispensable
When I was in high school, I was strongly considering joining the US Marine Corps. Instead, I went to college, and I am now a doctoral student of engineering. Read more
Published on August 31, 2011 by clustro
4.0 out of 5 stars War! what is it good for.
The first two chapters of this book, I began asking the question what are we fighting for, that we will spent trillions of dollars, sacrifice thousands of our sons and daughters. Read more
Published on July 31, 2011 by Luis Apodaca
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Topic From this Discussion
When book discusses 21st century wmd in Iraq it never mentions the...
Did they find a matchbox full of antimatter under Saddam's bed?
Mar 25, 2008 by Owen Hatteras |  See all 5 posts
Article called "Data Bomb" at shows that the Lancet...
You need to get out more. Then, get a reality check. Listen to someone other than Bill O'Reilly!
Apr 21, 2008 by Xena's Bard |  See all 2 posts
Book never mentions that the Lancet study they use for calculating out...
Even so, 655,000 dead Iraqis is a spit in the bucket compared to American atrocities in the Philippines, and the Vietnam debacle, anywhere from 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 humans killed. 655,000 dead Iraqis is not so unbelievable, and apparently we ain't done yet thanks to the ongoing paranoia of... Read More
Mar 28, 2008 by Michael Andrews |  See all 7 posts
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