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The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict Hardcover – February 17, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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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.


“Stiglitz and Bilmes have clearly demonstrated the need for Congress and the administration to ensure that those making sacrifices today will see those sacrifices honored in the future.” (Dave W. Gorman, executive director, Disabled American Veterans) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393067017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393067019
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on March 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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