Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Linda Blimes and Joseph Stiglitz

The title of this book sounds a bit callous or sensationalist but it’s actually a very humane and sympathetic look at all the costs – human, social and economic – that the war in Iraq has cost the United States and the world.

Surprising, the authors Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Blimes say that the three trillion dollar price tag they give to the Iraq war is a conservative estimate, and that in the long run the war will very likely cost many more trillions of dollars.

Perhaps the most heart wrenching part of this book is the description of the poor treatment Iraq war veterans get on their return home. They are made to jump through hoops to get their rightful entitlements, endure a slack attitude to their health problems, and are just generally not well looked after.

It is these future costs, health and medical for returned soldiers, that are so overlooked in the price tag for the Iraq war. As the book states, the US is still paying entitlements to returned soldiers from the First World War (there are three of them). So you can see how far these war costs can stretch into the future.

Critics of Blimes and Stiglitz could argue that the authors were against the war from the beginning, and so of course they would write a book like this. While they do admit being against the war, and seeing it as a terrible waste, this book is a good eye opener on all of the unthought of costs that war brings. They just spread out and seep into everything. Blimes and Stiglitz even take into account the extra administrative costs involved in paying veterans' claims.

Then there are the costs to the other economies of the world. The jump in the price of oil due to the Iraq war has cost the world trillions.

This is a humane book that takes a unique look at the hidden and overlooked human and financial costs involved in running a long, unpopular and unsuccesful war. It will sadden you deeply.

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