More on What Would It Cost To Go To War?

"More on What would it cost to go to war?


Human Costs:


Approximately 3,500 civilians were killed during the U.S.-led air strike campaign in August 1990, and more than 9000 homes were destroyed. The civilian death toll rose to 110,000 after the bombing stopped, and of those 70,000 were children under the age of 15. Civilians in Iraq continue to suffer as a result of "Operation Desert Storm," despite the cessation of military attacks in 1991. Incidents with landmines and unexploded ordinance have added thousands of victims to the total. According to Unicef, the U.S.-led economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, in effect for more than a decade, have claimed over one million lives, the majority of whom are children and the elderly. In the wider "War on Terror" more civilians have now died in Afghanistan than did in the World Trade Tower and Pentagon attacks combined according to Professor Marc W. Herold at the Whittemore School of Business & Economics, in Durham, New Hampshire.

Conservative predictions place US force levels between 125,000 and 250,000 personnel in a sustained effort for one to two months, assuming Iraqi does not use biological or chemical weapons. Many military experts have called the initial estimates optimistic at best, and some warn that Saddam has little or no incentive not to use these weapons since the goal of the effort is "regime change". Although the '91 Gulf War was fought mainly with U.S.-led air strikes and minimal ground forces, more than 350 US-Allied forces were killed. Most experts agree that the proposed war would require a ground campaign of hundreds of thousands, making the likelihood of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of U.S. casualties a possibility. More than 199,000 veterans (1 in 4) who served in the Persian Gulf from August 1990 to July in 1991 have filed war-related disability claims, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, with costs to settle estimated in the billions. Costs of studies alone to deal with Gulf War veterans' medical concerns exceed $170 million and the long-term costs of therapy and disability have yet to be tallied.

Environmental Costs:
Costs of extinguishing oil well fires, set by Iraqi troops in the 1991 Gulf war, far exceeded earlier estimates. Khaled Ahmed al-Mudhaf, chairman of Kuwait's Public Authority for Assessment of Compensation for Damages Resulting from the Iraqi Aggression, cited extensive harm to fresh water supplies and soil, and U.N officials, responding to the report, said that findings could increase significantly a $17 billion claim already submitted by Kuwait for environmental damage. More than $130 million is being spent currently in Afghanistan, and the Governing Body of the U.N. Compensation Commission (composed of the same 15 members of the Security Council) is due to pay $67 million to Iran and $8.2 million to Saudia Arabia in coming weeks for environmental damage from the Gulf War. Long-term damage to the environment in the region (soil, sand, fresh water, air quality and flora) is difficult to measure. "It may take years of scientific analysis to quantify the damage to the health of this sensitive ecosystem," reported J. William Futrell, president of the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

For more information about the projected costs refer to the following resources:

“Iraq: The Economic Consequences of War, by William Nordhaus, The New York Review of Books, December 5, 2002, A longer version of this paper is available at www.econ

"Study: Short Iraq War Would Cost World $1 Trillion" By Reuters 2/20/03 , on study by Reserve Bank of Australia board member Warwick McKibbin and Center for International Economics executive director Andrew Stoeckel, available at

"Iraq war to carry a high tab" 8/19/02, by Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor.

"A Dossier of Civilian Deaths", by Marc Herold, October 12, 2001,

"Addressing The Environmental Consequences Of War" by J. William Futrell, President, Environmental Law Institute, Washington D.C.,

Arms Trade Resource Center,, (212)-229-5808

"Debating the Costs of War", by David Corn, September 27, 2002,

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, at, telephone (617)-868-5050. Email:

"Kuwait sees heavier Gulf War environmental damage" by Stephanie Nebehay,
"Many Gulf vets file for disability", February 17, 2002, Associated Press Report,

Taxpayers for Common Sense, "Weighing the Costs of War" telephone (202)-546-8500

War and Public Health, American Public Health Association, telephone (301)-893-1894, email:

“Iraqi Cancers, Birth Defects Blamed on US Depleted Uranium,” by Larry Johnson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 12, 2002,

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