Thursday, June 12, 2008

George W. Bush - The Worst President in History

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A new poll suggests that George W. Bush is the most unpopular president in modern American history.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that 71 percent of the American public disapprove of how Bush his handling his job as president.

"No president has ever had a higher disapproval rating in any CNN or Gallup poll; in fact, this is the first time that any president's disapproval rating has cracked the 70 percent mark," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"Bush's approval rating, which stands at 28 percent in our new poll, remains better than the all-time lows set by Harry Truman and Richard Nixon (22 percent and 24 percent, respectively) but even those two presidents never got a disapproval rating in the 70s," Holland added. "The previous all-time record in CNN or Gallup polling was set by Truman, 66 percent disapproval in January 1952."

CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider adds, "He is more unpopular than Richard Nixon was just before he resigned from the presidency in August 1974." President Nixon's disapproval rating in August 1974 stood at 67 percent.

The poll also indicates that support for the war in Iraq has never been lower. Thirty percent of those questioned favored the war while 68 percent opposed the conflict.

"Americans are growing more pessimistic about the war," Holland said. "In January, nearly half believed that things were going well for the U.S. in Iraq; now that figure has dropped to 39 percent."

The numbers on the Iraq war come on the five-year anniversary of President Bush's "mission accomplished" moment onboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, when Bush proclaimed that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

The record low support for the war in a CNN poll could be one reason behind the president's unpopularity, but it probably is not the only one.

"Support for the war, the assessment of the economy and approval of Mr. Bush are all about the same — bad," Schneider said.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone from Monday through Wednesday, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned. The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. for more :

Former President Carter Blasts Bush's Administration as 'Worst in History'

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.

The criticism from Carter, which a biographer says is unprecedented for the 39th president, also took aim at Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative funding.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo confirmed his comments to The Associated Press on Saturday and declined to elaborate. He spoke while promoting his new audiobook series, "Sunday Mornings in Plains," a collection of weekly Bible lessons from his hometown of Plains, Ga.

"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," said Amber Wilkerson, Republican National Committee spokeswoman. She said it was hard to take Carter seriously because he also "challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."

Carter came down hard on the Iraq war.

"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said. "But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."

Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Bush for having "zero peace talks" in Israel. Carter also said the administration "abandoned or directly refuted" every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.

Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive $2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.

"The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion," Carter said. "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one."

Douglas Brinkley, a Tulane University presidential historian and Carter biographer, described Carter's comments as unprecedented.

"This is the most forceful denunciation President Carter has ever made about an American president," Brinkley said. "When you call somebody the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."

Carter also lashed out Saturday at British prime minister Tony Blair. Asked how he would judge Blair's support of Bush, the former president said: "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient."

"And I think the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world," Carter told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

And here is some of His - [Bush] trail in more detail

(CBS) The president’s approval level remains below 50 percent, and Americans are still divided over the war in Iraq. They are paying attention to one of the summer’s major news stories – the possible 2003 leak to reporters of the identity of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame. In fact, the story has captured a level of attention from the public similar to the early stages of political scandals such as Whitewater, the Democrats' 1996 fundraising and Iran Contra.

Forty-one percent of the public views this controversy as of great importance to the nation -- more than what was said about the Whitewater scandal in its early days, and about the same as was measured for Iran-Contra in the spring of 1987 and the campaign fundraising scandal. But compared to how Americans felt about Watergate in 1973, fewer today see this issue as of great importance.


Plame leak (8/2005)
Fundraising (3/1997)
Whitewater (4/1994)
Iran-Contra (5/1987)
Watergate (5/1973)*

Plame leak

Very little/none
Plame leak


Views on the issue’s relevance to the nation are highly partisan. Fifty-two percent of Democrats think the matter is of great importance, compared to 31 percent of Republicans. The inverse was true during the Whitewater scandal and during the scandal involving 1996 campaign contributions -- then, more Republicans than Democrats felt the issue was of great importance.

Democrats are also more critical than Republicans of the administration’s honesty in the matter, more convinced of its involvement and more apt to see that involvement as part of a broad effort to discredit critics.

But Americans remain focused on the set of issues that have been at the top of their minds for months -- the war in Iraq, the economy and jobs, and terrorism. These three issues rank at the top of the list of important issues facing the country.

The war's president
War in Iraq

Views on the economy have improved slightly since June; 57 percent think the economy is in good shape. But views on Iraq remain negative, as they have been for months.


Americans are skeptical about the Bush administration’s behavior and public statements about the 2003 leak of the name of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame to reporters. Only 12 percent think the Bush administration is telling the entire truth about the matter; more than half –- 55 percent -- think the administration is mostly telling the truth but hiding something, and another 22 percent think it is lying.


Telling entire truth - All
Hiding something - All
Mostly lying - All

Many Republicans doubt the administration is telling all it knows to the public. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans think the administration is hiding something or lying -- although 28 percent think it is telling the entire truth. Democrats are much more skeptical.

In previous polls, a majority of the public also felt the Bush administration was withholding information about the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and the Enron collapse.

As for responsibility for the leak, just over half of Americans think it was someone in the Bush administration. Twenty-one percent think it was not someone in the administration. However, about a quarter don’t know.

Yes – All
Yes – Reps.
Yes – Dems

No – All
No – Reps.
No – Dems

Don't know – All
Don’t know – Reps.
Don't know – Dems

Once again, views on this are highly partisan. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans think the Bush administration was responsible for the leak, compared to 64 percent of Democrats.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans think the leak was part of a wider effort by the Bush administration to discredit its critics. Eighteen percent think the leak was an isolated incident or mistake.

On this question as well, Democrats are more apt to view the administration’s activities in a negative light.

Independents look similar to Democrats, with one-third of them saying the leak was part of a wider effort, but one-fourth also don't know if the administration leaked the name or not.

Over half of Americans say they have heard or read at least some about this issue. Those who have heard or read a lot about the matter are more apt to think the administration was involved, and to view the administration’s actions as part of a larger effort. Democrats (19 percent) are about as likely as Republicans (17 percent) to have heard or read a lot about the issue. Men are more apt than women to have heard a lot, as are those over age 45 and those with more education.


A lot
Undecided/haven't heard

Rove has said that he spoke with reporters about Valerie Plame but that he did not refer to her by name. The public is not sure whether Rove’s actions broke any laws. Nearly four in 10 Americans believe Rove did something either unethical or illegal in the Plame case –- with most of those saying his actions were unethical, not illegal. Twenty-seven percent think he did nothing wrong, while 34 percent aren’t sure.


Not worth it

Removing Saddam from power
Worth it
Not worth it

Americans are more likely to say removing Saddam Hussein was worth it; 45 percent think it was, but 47 percent say it was not.

One-third still believes Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, but 53 percent say he was not. In 2003, during the early months of the war, more Americans were convinced Saddam was involved in 9/11, but by 2004 that dropped close to the level it is now, and has remained there.

Forty-eight percent now think things are going well for the United States in Iraq, while half say things are going badly. These assessments are slightly improved from July, when 54 percent said things were going badly for the United States.



July 2005

Views on other questions about the war in Iraq are unchanged since July. Americans remain divided over whether taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, and most, 64 percent, think it is likely that the United States will succeed in Iraq.

Looking ahead, 46 percent want the United States to decrease the number of troops in Iraq; 31 percent think the troop levels should be kept the same, and just 15 percent say the number of U.S. troops should be increased. Two-thirds of those who don’t think the United States will succeed in Iraq want the troop level to be decreased, while those who feel the United States is likely to succeed there are more willing to keep troop levels the same or even increase them.

Many, 41 percent, think the war in Iraq has made it harder for al Qaeda to launch new terrorist attacks, while 36 percent say the war did not have much impact in this regard. But 16 percent, almost three times as many as two years ago, now say the Iraq war has made it easier for al Qaeda to launch terrorist attacks.


Made it harder
Made it easier
No impact

May 2003
Made it harder
Made it easier
No impact

In addition, 45 percent believe the war in Iraq has actually increased the threat of terrorism against the United States; 39 percent say it has had no effect and just 14 percent say the war in Iraq has decreased the terrorist threat against the United States.


Increased it
Decreased it
Stayed the same

Just over half view Iraq as part of the broader war on terror, a slight increase from the 46 percent who said so in July. Forty-six percent now say Iraq is separate from the war on terrorism. In April 2003, after U.S. troops took control of Baghdad, two-thirds viewed the war in Iraq as part of the war on terrorism.


Over two-thirds of Americans are confident that the U.S. government will be able to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks, but confidence levels have declined over time. Just over a year ago, three-quarters were confident. Immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, nine in ten had confidence. The percentage who do not have confidence has risen to 30 percent, up from 24 percent in April 2004 and nearly three times as many as just after the September 11th attacks.

Nine in ten Republicans are confident that the government will be able to protect U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks, compared with 54 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Independents.

Sixty-one percent think it is likely that there will be another terrorist attack on the United States within the next few months; 36 percent think that is unlikely. On a broader scale, two in five say the United States and its allies are winning the war against terrorism, although nearly as many say neither side is winning and fewer than one in five say the terrorists are winning. Despite recent terrorist attacks in London, these views have not changed since January.


Fifty-seven percent now rate the nation’s economy as very or fairly good -- up slightly since June. Forty-two percent think the economy is in bad shape. Still, the public expresses concern; 32 percent think the economy is getting worse, while fewer, 20 percent, think it is improving.



June 2005

February 2005


Views of President George W. Bush have remained stable in the past month and even improved since June. In this poll, 45 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, unchanged since last month but higher than his 42 percent approval in June.

Bush’s ratings on handling specific issues are mostly unchanged from last month. As has been the case, handling terrorism remains the president’s strongest issue, with a 55 percent approval rating, while his handling of Social Security is his weakest issue, on which he receives only a 29 percent approval rating.


Overall – now
Overall – July

Campaign against terrorism – now
Campaign against terrorism – July

The economy – now
The economy - July

Foreign policy – now
Foreign policy – June

War in Iraq – now
War in Iraq - July

Social Security - now
Social Security – June

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1222 adults, interviewed by telephone July 29-August 2, 2005. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on all adults. Error for subgroups is higher.


I. Costs to the United States


U.S. Military Deaths: Between the start of war on March 19, 2003 and September 22, 2004, 1,175 coalition forces were killed, including 1,040 U.S. military. Of the total, 925 were killed after President Bush declared the end of combat operations on May 1, 2003. Over 7,413 U.S. troops have been wounded since the war began, 6,953 (94 percent) since May 1, 2003.

Contractor Deaths: As of September 22, 2004, there has been an estimated 154 civilian contractors, missionaries, and civilian worker deaths since May 1, 2004. Of these, 52 have been identified as Americans.
Journalist Deaths: Forty-four international media workers have been killed in Iraq as of September 22, 2004, including 33 since President Bush declared the end of combat operations. Eight of the dead worked for U.S. companies.


Terrorist Recruitment and Action: According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, al Qaeda's membership is now at 18,000, with 1,000 active in Iraq. The State Department's 2003 "Patterns of Global Terrorism," documented 625 deaths and 3,646 injuries due to terrorist attacks in 2003. The report acknowledged that "significant incidents," increased from 60 percent of total attacks in 2002 to 84 percent in 2003.

Low U.S. Credibility: Polls reveal that the war has damaged the U.S. government's standing and credibility in the world. Surveys in eight European and Arab countries demonstrated broad public agreement that the war has hurt, rather than helped, the war on terrorism. At home, 52 percent of Americans polled by the Annenberg Election Survey disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq.

Military Mistakes: A number of former military officials have criticized the war, including retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, who has charged that by manufacturing a false rationale for war, abandoning traditional allies, propping up and trusting Iraqi exiles, and failing to plan for post-war Iraq, the Bush Administration made the United States less secure.

Low Troop Morale and Lack of Equipment: A March 2004 army survey found 52 percent of soldiers reporting low morale, and three-fourths reporting they were poorly led by their officers. Lack of equipment has been an ongoing problem. The Army did not fully equip soldiers with bullet-proof vests until June 2004, forcing many families to purchase them out of their own pockets.

Loss of First Responders: National Guard troops make up almost one-third of the U.S. Army troops now in Iraq. Their deployment puts a particularly heavy burden on their home communities because many are "first responders," including police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. For example, 44 percent of the country's police forces have lost officers to Iraq. In some states, the absence of so many Guard troops has raised concerns about the ability to handle natural disasters.

Use of Private Contractors: An estimated 20,000 private contractors are carrying out work in Iraq traditionally done by the military, despite the fact that they often lack sufficient training and are not accountable to the same guidelines and reviews as military personnel.


The Bill So Far: Congress has approved of $151.1 billion for Iraq. Congressional leaders anticipate an additional supplemental appropriation of $60 billion after the election.

Long-term Impact on U.S. Economy: Economist Doug Henwood has estimated that the war bill will add up to an average of at least $3,415 for every U.S. household. Another economist, James Galbraith of the University of Texas, predicts that while war spending may boost the economy initially, over the long term it is likely to bring a decade of economic troubles, including an expanded trade deficit and high inflation.

Oil Prices: U.S. crude oil prices spiked at $48 per barrel on August 19, 2004, the highest level since 1983, a development that most analysts attribute at least in part to the deteriorating situation in Iraq. According to a mid-May CBS survey, 85 percent of Americans said they had been affected measurably by higher gas prices. According to one estimate, if crude oil prices stay around $40 a barrel for a year, U.S. gross domestic product will decline by more than $50 billion.

Economic Impact on Military Families: Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 364,000 reserve troops and National Guard soldiers have been called for military service, serving tours of duty that often last 20 months. Studies show that between 30 and 40 percent of reservists and National Guard members earn a lower salary when they leave civilian employment for military deployment. Army Emergency Relief has reported that requests from military families for food stamps and subsidized meals increased "several hundred percent" between 2002 and 2003.


U.S. Budget and Social Programs: The Bush administration's combination of massive spending on the war and tax cuts for the wealthy means less money for social spending. The $151.1 billion expenditure for the war through this year could have paid for: close to 23 million housing vouchers; health care for over 27 million uninsured Americans; salaries for nearly 3 million elementary school teachers; 678,200 new fire engines; over 20 million Head Start slots for children; or health care coverage for 82 million children. A leaked memo from the White House to domestic agencies outlines major cuts following the election, including funding for education, Head Start, home ownership, job training, medical research and homeland security.

Social Costs to the Military: In order to meet troop requirements in Iraq, the Army has extended the tours of duty for soldiers. These extensions have been particularly difficult for reservists, many of whom never expected to face such long separations from their jobs and families. According to military policy, reservists are not supposed to be on assignment for more than 12 months every 5-6 years. To date, the average tour of duty for all soldiers in Iraq has been 320 days. A recent Army survey revealed that more than half of soldiers said they would not re-enlist.

Costs to Veteran Health Care: About 64 percent of the more than 7,000 U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq received wounds that prevented them from returning to duty. One trend has been an increase in amputees, the result of improved body armor that protects vital organs but not extremities. As in previous wars, many soldiers are likely to have received ailments that will not be detected for years to come. The Veterans Administration healthcare system is not prepared for the swelling number of claims. In May, the House of Representatives approved funding for FY 2005 that is $2.6 billion less than needed, according to veterans' groups.

Mental Health Costs: The New England Journal of Medicine reported in July 2004 that 1 in 6 soldiers returning from war in Iraq showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, or severe anxiety. Only 23 to 40 percent of respondents in the study who showed signs of a mental disorder had sought mental health care.

II. Costs to Iraq


Iraqi Deaths and Injuries: As of September 22, 2004, between 12,800 and 14,843 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of the U.S. invasion and ensuing occupation, while an estimated 40,000 Iraqis have been injured. During "major combat" operations, between 4,895 and 6,370 Iraqi soldiers and insurgents were killed.

Effects of Depleted Uranium: The health impacts of the use of depleted uranium weaponry in Iraq are yet to be known. The Pentagon estimates that U.S. and British forces used 1,100 to 2,200 tons of weaponry made from the toxic and radioactive metal during the March 2003 bombing campaign. Many scientists blame the far smaller amount of DU weapons used in the Persian Gulf War for illnesses among U.S. soldiers, as well as a sevenfold increase in child birth defects in Basra in southern Iraq.


Rise in Crime: Murder, rape, and kidnapping have skyrocketed since March 2003, forcing Iraqi children to stay home from school and women to stay off the streets at night. Violent deaths rose from an average of 14 per month in 2002 to 357 per month in 2003.

Psychological Impact: Living under occupation without the most basic security has devastated the Iraqi population. A poll conducted by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies in June 2004 found that 80 percent of Iraqis believe that coalition forces should leave either immediately or directly after the election.


Unemployment: Iraqi joblessness doubled from 30 percent before the war to 60 percent in the summer of 2003. While the Bush administration now claims that unemployment has dropped, the U.S. is only employing 120,000 Iraqis, of a workforce of 7 million, in reconstruction projects.

Corporate War Profiteering: Most of Iraq's reconstruction has been contracted out to U.S. companies, rather than experienced Iraqi firms. Top contractor Halliburton is being investigated for charging $160 million for meals that were never served to troops and $61 million in cost overruns on fuel deliveries. Halliburton employees also took $6 million in kickbacks from subcontractors, while other employees have reported extensive waste, including the abandonment of $85,000 trucks because they had flat tires.

Iraq's Oil Economy: Anti-occupation violence has prevented Iraq from capitalizing on its oil assets. There have been an estimated 118 attacks on Iraq's oil infrastructure since June 2003. By September 2004, oil production still had not reached pre-war levels and major attacks caused oil exports to plummet to a ten-month low in August 2004.


Health Infrastructure: After more than a decade of crippling sanctions, Iraq's health facilities were further damaged during the war and post-invasion looting. Iraq's hospitals continue to suffer from lack of supplies and an overwhelming number of patients.

Education: UNICEF estimates that more than 200 schools were destroyed in the conflict and thousands more were looted in the chaos following the fall of Saddam Hussein. The State Department reported on September 15th that "Significant obstacles remain in maintaining security for civilian/military reconstruction, logistical
support and distribution for donations, equipment, textbooks and supplies."

Environment: The U.S-led attack damaged water and sewage systems and the country's fragile desert ecosystem. It also resulted in oil well fires that spewed smoke across the country and left unexploded ordnance that continues to endanger the Iraqi people and environment. Mines and unexploded ordnance cause an estimated 20 casualties per month.

Harvard University | US ARMY | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-* | *-*


Even with Saddam Hussein overthrown, Iraqis continue to face human rights violations from occupying forces. In addition to the widely publicized humiliation and torture of prisoners, abuse has been widespread throughout the post-9-11 military operations, with over 300 allegations of abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. As of mid-August 2004, only 155 investigations into the existing 300 allegations had been completed.


Despite the proclaimed "transfer of sovereignty" to Iraq, the country continues to be occupied by U.S. and coalition troops and has severely limited political and economic independence. The interim government does not have the authority to reverse the nearly 100 orders by former CPA head Paul Bremer that, among other things, allow for the privatization of Iraq's state-owned enterprises and prohibit preferences for domestic firms in reconstruction.

III. Costs to the World


While Americans make up the vast majority of military and contractor personnel in Iraq, other U.S.-allied "coalition" troops have suffered 135 war casualties in Iraq. In addition, the focus on Iraq has diverted international resources and attention away from humanitarian crises such as in Sudan.


The unilateral U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq violated the United Nations Charter, setting a dangerous precedent for other countries to seize any opportunity to respond militarily to claimed threats, whether real or contrived, that must be "pre-empted." The U.S. military has also violated the Geneva Convention, making it more likely that in the future, other nations will ignore these protections in their treatment of civilian populations and detainees.


At every turn, the Bush Administration has attacked the legitimacy and credibility of the UN, undermining the institution's capacity to act in the future as the centerpiece of global disarmament and conflict resolution. The efforts of the Bush administration to gain UN acceptance of an Iraqi government that was not elected but rather installed by occupying forces undermines the entire notion of national sovereignty as the basis for the UN Charter. It was on this basis that Secretary General Annan referred specifically to the vantage point of the UN Charter in his September 2004 finding that the war was illegal.


Faced with opposition in the UN Security Council, the U.S. government attempted to create the illusion of multilateral support for the war by pressuring other governments to join a so-called "Coalition of the Willing." This not only circumvented UN authority, but also undermined democracy in many coalition countries, where public opposition to the war was as high as 90 percent. As of the middle of September, only 29 members of the "Coalition of the Willing" had forces in Iraq, in addition to the United States. These countries, combined with United States, make up less than 14 percent of the world's population.


The $151.1 billion spent by the U.S. government on the war could have cut world hunger in half and covered HIV/AIDS medicine, childhood immunization and clean water and sanitation needs of the developing world for more than two years. As a factor in the oil price hike, the war has created concerns of a return to the "stagflation" of the 1970s. Already, the world's major airlines are expecting an increase in costs of $1 billion or more per month.


The U.S.-led war and occupation have galvanized international terrorist organizations, placing people not only in Iraq but around the world at greater risk of attack. The State Department's annual report on international terrorism reported that in 2003 there was the highest level of terror-related incidents deemed "significant" than at any time since the U.S. began issuing these figures.


U.S.-fired depleted uranium weapons have contributed to pollution of Iraq's land and water, with inevitable spillover effects in other countries. The heavily polluted Tigris River, for example, flows through Iraq, Iran and Kuwait.


The Justice Department memo assuring the White House that torture was legal stands in stark violation of the International Convention Against Torture (of which the United States is a signatory). This, combined with the widely publicized mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military and intelligence officials, gave new license for torture and mistreatment by governments around the world.

Economist estimates cost of Iraq war to exceed $3 trillion

By Naomi Spencer
1 March 2008
Check for the graph

As the five-year anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq approaches, a leading economist is estimating that the overall cost of the war will be between $3 trillion and $5 trillion. This figure does not take into account the enormous devastation that the US military has wrought upon the population and social infrastructure of Iraq.

On Thursday, Joseph Stiglitz told the congressional Joint Economic Committee that $3 trillion was at the low end of estimated war costs. After factoring in the cost of weapons and operations, future health-care costs for veterans, interest on foreign loans used to fund the war, and future borrowing, Stiglitz said the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be somewhere between $5 trillion and $7 trillion for the US alone. Another estimated $6 trillion will be borne by other countries, he said.

Stiglitz, former chief economist for the World Bank and a Nobel laureate, is co-author with Harvard economics professor Linda Bilmes of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, a book released Friday. The book builds on 2006 research that estimated the cost of the so-called war on terror in excess of $1 trillion.

Officially, the US spends $16 billion every month to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, but this figure includes only direct expenses.

These enormous sums are being expended to carry out a crime of immeasurable proportions. More than a million civilians have been killed in Iraq alone. Some 4.5 million more have been displaced by the violence, with thousands of refugees fleeing the country into Syria, Jordan and elsewhere every day. With $3-5 trillion, the US government has destroyed an entire society.

Those charged with carrying out the conquest have also been sacrificed. Over 5,000 military personnel—the vast majority US troops—have died in the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. A substantial portion of the estimated costs will go to pay for health care for the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers.

The American ruling class has initiated a policy of unending war as it cuts jobs and social programs in the United States. According to Stiglitz and Bilmes, $1 trillion could pay for 8 million housing units, university scholarships for 43 million students, health care for 530 million children, or the salaries of 15 million public school teachers in the US.

In an interview published Thursday in the British newspaper, the Guardian, Stiglitz noted that the US spends $5 billion a year in aid to Africa. “Five billion is roughly 10 days’ fighting, so you get a new metric of thinking about everything,” he said.

The United Nations estimates that $195 billion would end world hunger and most of the devastating diseases afflicting the world’s poor. AIDS, measles, tuberculosis, malaria and other water-borne illnesses could all be brought into manageable numbers or wholly eradicated within a short time for less than the cost of one year of waging war in Iraq. Instead, the US occupation of Iraq has reintroduced diseases such as cholera into Iraqi society.

For years, the US political establishment has carried out attacks on social programs and the jobs of American workers. Workers are now told that there is no money for decent wages and benefits, while billions are spent on military wars of aggression.

One consequence of the chaos wrought in the Middle East, Stiglitz asserts, has been the enormous rise in the price of oil. For industrialized countries, the increase in the cost of oil attributable to the war is around $1.1 trillion. For developing countries, the effect has been much more extreme. According to Stigltiz’s and Bilmes’ book, the increase in the cost of oil more than offsets the increase in foreign aid to countries in Africa.

The White House, which refused to testify before the Joint Economic Committee on the cost of the war, reacted to Stiglitz’s remarks with undisguised hostility and derision. “People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure,” White House spokesperson Tony Fratto told the press. “One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11.”

The Iraq war, Fratto said, “is also an investment in the future safety and security of Americans and our vital national interests. Three trillion dollars? 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?”

Stiglitz told Democracy Now! radio on Friday that the most significant budgetary cost of the war is the care of disabled veterans, which he said “will total hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decades.” The war has inflicted a huge number of injuries. He said that an estimated 39 percent of soldiers would have some form of disability after completing their rotations.

Bilmes, who also appeared on the Democracy Now! program, explained that while in previous wars the ratio of wounded to dead was two-to-one or three-to-one, new medical technologies have allowed many who might otherwise have died to survive extremely serious injuries. The wounded to fatality rate for the Iraq war is approximately 15-to-1. “What it means is that the United States has a long-term cost of taking care of many, many thousands of disabled veterans for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“Then you go beyond that budgetary cost to the cost of the economy,” Stiglitz added. “When somebody gets disabled, the disability pay is just a fraction of the loss to their family, to the income that they could have otherwise earned.”

“There are a whole set of macroeconomic costs, which have depressed the economy,” including the price of oil, Stiglitz said. “What’s happened is, to offset those costs, the Federal Reserve has flooded the economy with liquidity.... We were living off of borrowed money. The war was totally financed by deficits. And eventually, a day of reckoning had to come, and now it’s come.”

While the vast majority of the US and world population wants an end to the occupation in Iraq, no section of the political establishment represents this opposition.

An article in the Wall Street Journal on Friday noted that the Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, employ careful rhetoric on the issue of withdrawal from Iraq. “Both candidates draw a distinction between ‘combat’ troops, whom they want to withdraw, and ‘noncombat’ troops, who will stay to battle terrorists, protect the US civilian presence and possibly train and mentor Iraqi security forces,” the newspaper noted.

This distinction allows the candidates to posture as opponents of the war while maintaining their commitment to an indefinite occupation.

“No one is talking about getting to zero,” a foreign policy advisor for Obama told the Journal. An unnamed Obama campaign “senior advisor” said the senator was “comfortable with a long-term US troop presence of around five brigades,” according to the paper.

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