Cost of a War
This book should be a prescribed reading for all Americans, especially before the presidential elections. It explains with chilling facts how people in that country have been hoodwinked – and this despite their constitutional right to information. The authors are clearly anti-war and anti-Bush. But their political ideology apart, they say in the Preface, “Our goal was simple: to determine the true cost of the war. Regardless of whether one supported or opposed US actions in the region, we believed that voters had a right to know the real cost of our policies.” And they are eminently qualified to do so. Joseph E Stiglitz of Columbia University is the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics and Linda J Bilmes, a professor of public finance at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is a former assistant secretary for management and budget in the US department of commerce.

Apart from its tragic human toll, the Iraq War will prove staggeringly expensive in financial terms. The numbers presented are as mind boggling as they are numbing. 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. This book casts a spotlight on expenditure items that have been hitherto hidden from the US taxpayer, including big-ticket items like replacing military equipment (being used up at six times the peace-time rate) as well as the cost of caring for thousands of wounded veterans for the rest of their lives. With chilling precision, the authors measure what the US taxpayer’s money would have achieved had it been invested in social areas like education or on roads and research. The fact, of course, remains that funds that might have been freed up may not have been spent on such projects – given the political priorities. There have been predictable responses to this book. Those who oppose the war love it and those who support the Iraq War are displeased. One can see these responses in the many reviews that have been posted on the Net.

The problem I have with The Three Trillion Dollar War is not one of content but of emphasis. Only someone with the credentials of Stiglitz could have attempted calculating the cost to our planet. But unfortunately, he does not. He restricts the costs to the American people and the economy. Had he done a wider study, we would have known how the earth’s scarce resources were wasted on a war that perhaps enriched some of USA’s defence manufacturers but impoverished the world for all times to come. – Dr Nita Mukherjee

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