Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Trillion-dollar war: Afghanistan and Iraq set to cost more than Vietnam and Korea

While George Bush made his latest request for funds, more US soldiers were buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia

President George Bush will have spent more than $1 trillion on military adventures by the time he leaves office at the end of next year, more than the entire amount spent on the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

There are also disturbing signs that Mr Bush is preparing an attack on Iran during his remaining months in office. He has demanded $46bn (£22.5bn) emergency funds from Congress by Christmas and included with it a single sentence requesting money to upgrade the B-2 "stealth" bomber.



By wrapping his request in the flag of patriotism, the President has made it very difficult even for an anti-war Congress to refuse the money. He was accompanied by the family of a dead US marine when he made the request for funds on Monday.



The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has attacked the President's priorities saying: "For the cost of less than 40 days in Iraq, we could provide health care coverage to 10 million children for an entire year."



"The President is happy to put the military spending on the national credit card," said Steve Kosiak, a vice-president of the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent, military policy research institute, who said that the $1trn figure will soon be passed.



The full amount requested for this fiscal year is now $196.4bn. The US is on course to spend a total of $806bn fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than on any war it has fought since the Second World War. With interest payments this tops $1trn.



Despite their expense, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are less of an economic burden (at 4.2 per cent of GDP) than earlier wars. The 1990-91 Gulf War cost $88bn, the Korean War cost $456bn (12.2 per cent of GDP) and the Vietnam War, $518bn (9.4 per cent of GDP). By comparison the Second World War cost more than 40 per cent of GDP.



Mr Kosiak also points out that the military is using the cover of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to get funding for all sorts of projects. The upgrade of the stealth bomber is one of those projects.



The Pentagon wants to upgrade its fleet of stealth bombers so that they can deliver 30-tonne, satellite-guided bombs. The planes would be based on the British Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia where hangars are being specially upgraded. These "bunker-buster" bombs are six times bigger than anything used by the air force and designed to destroy weapons of mass destruction facilities underground. Diego Garcia is also much closer to Iran than Missouri, where the bombers are based.



This weekend Vice-President Dick Cheney stepped up the rhetoric, warning of "serious consequences" if Iran refuses to stop enriching uranium and said the US would not permit it to get nuclear weapons. Iran denies that the enrichment is linked to a nuclear weapons programme and says it is entirely peaceful.



David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, who was in Washington for talks with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, yesterday would not be drawn on Mr Cheney's remarks.



Mr Bush's request for an extra $46bn in funds by Christmas has angered Congress, but it is expected to be approved.



This year's request for extra military spending is already the largest since 11 September 2001 and rising fast.



The lion's share of the money Mr Bush has asked for is for the Pentagon. Some has also been earmarked for UN peacekeeping in Darfur, emergency food aid in Africa and sending oil to North Korea as part of a deal to end its nuclear weapons programme.



* The US State Department has been harshly criticised for failing to oversee the private security companies it relies on in Iraq.



An internal review found poor supervision and accountability for companies such as Blackwater USA as well as DynCorp.



An audit of DynCorp says its record keeping is so poor that the State Department cannot account for $1.2bn (£590m) it paid the company since 2004 to train Iraqi police officers.

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