America has already paid a steep price for invading Iraq. The most visible burden is the toll on our fighting men and women.
The economic burden is less readily apparent. Current expenditures, largely financed by borrowing, have been grossly underestimated, although even the vast sums we have spent have not been sufficient to achieve our objectives or protect our troops. Future costs, which will continue to escalate after we finally leave Iraq, have been deliberately glossed over.
These costs are certain to be huge and will continue for generations. That is the lesson of the 1991 Gulf War, a conflict that lasted for less than two months, with little ground fighting and 694,550 troops deployed to the Gulf. One hundred forty eight U.S. soldiers were killed, and 467 injured in direct combat. America’s allies (primarily Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) paid for most of the combat operations of the first Gulf War. If you stop counting there, it seems
the Gulf War was almost free. But that fails to take into account the large number of veterans suffering from some form of disability from the war, so that today——more than sixteen years later——the United States still spends over $4.3 billion each year paying compensation, pension, and disability benefits to more than 200,000 veterans of the Gulf War.