President Bush’s request yesterday for an additional $196 billion in war funding would bring the projected cost of the war to date to nearly $610 billion. This is more than 10 times the original $50-60 billion cost estimate provided by the White House budget director in 2002.
So far the war has cost an average of $102.7 billion per year, which puts the total cost on pace to top $1 trillion in just four years. The potential financial costs are even greater given Bush’s desire for an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq. Over the next nine fiscal years, a 70,000-strong U.S. troop presence will cost an additional $493 billion, making the total cost of war for the next nine years over $1.1 trillion.
President Bush has repeatedly waited until the last minute to present his supplemental funding requests, demanding that Congress pass it unconditionally lest they risk endangering the troops. Once again, Bush has pulled the same old trick, declaring, “Congress should not go home for the holidays while our troops are still waiting for the funds they need.”
It is the administration’s delay in sending its funding request to Congress, not Congress’ necessary deliberations on the request, that endangers funding of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. If President Bush were truly a responsible commander-in-chief, he would have either incorporated war funding in his regular budget request or sent a supplemental to Congress earlier.
The use of supplemental funding bills also allows the Bush administration to obscure the necessary discussion on overall national security priorities. It fails to put the war in perspective of our overall defense spending, making the costs seem smaller than they actually are.
Fully two-thirds of the American public—67 percent—supported cutting the White House’s latest request for additional funding. Congress should stand up to President Bush on this funding request and continue to take steps to push for a Strategic Reset in Iraq policy centered on a phased redeployment and intensified diplomatic efforts to resolve Iraq’s conflicts.
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