*I host a radio show in San Francisco called Your Call and post info about it when relevant.
Today we’re revisiting a show we recently did about the true financial costs and health effects of the Iraq war. On May 9, UCSF held a symposium to discuss these very issues.
From 1956 to 1965, the Vietnam War cost the U.S. the equivalent of $662 billion in today's dollars, according to the U.S. government's Congressional Research Service.
Four years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the cost of the war as of 9:05 am PST was $429 billion. At this point, there seems to be no end in sight.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in their mid-range scenario, the war will cost over $266 billion more in the next decade, putting the direct costs of the war in the range of $500 billion.
One of our guests says that number underestimates the war’s true costs. Professor Linda Bilmes teaches public finance at the Kenendy School of Government at Harvard University. From 1999-2001, she was assistant secretary of Commerce in the Clinton adminstration. According to her recent paper, "Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Long-Term Costs of Providing Veterans Medical Care and Disability Benefits,” the true cost of the war will be more that two trillion dollars.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in more than 53,000 wounded soldiers. Tens of thousands soldiers suffer traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and debilitating chronic pain.
On the Iraqi side, the human cost has been disastrous. Two wars and a decade of sanctions has resulted in the worst mortality rates in Iraq’s history. A new report by Save the Children shows that in the years since 1990, Iraq has seen its child mortality rate soar by 125 per cent, the highest increase of any country in the world. Its rate of deaths of children under five now matches that of Mauritania.
Studies reveal that generations of Iraqis are growing up with posttraumatic syndrome, lack of health care and malnutrition.
A few facts from an excellent Al-Ahram article called, "Pity the sick of Iraq" (a must read)
*A recent UNDP-backed study reveals that one-third of Iraqis live in poverty, with more than five per cent living in abject poverty.
*More than 500,000 Baghdad residents get water for only a few hours a day. And the majority of Iraqis get three hours of electricity a day, in contrast to pre-war levels of about 20 hours.
*At the outset of the 2003 war, the US administration pledged to cut Iraq's child mortality rate in half by 2005. But the rate has continued to worsen, to 130 in 2006, according to Iraqi Health Ministry figures.
*According to the United Nations Children's Agency (UNICEF), about one in 10 Iraqi children under five are underweight (acutely malnourished) and one in five are short for their age (chronically malnourished).
*The Iraq Medical Association reports that 90 per cent of the almost 180 hospitals in Iraq lack essential equipment. At Yarmouk Hospital, one of the busiest hospitals in Baghdad, five people die on average every day because medics and nurses don't have the equipment to treat common ills and accidents, according to Yarmouk doctor Hussam Abboud. That translates to more than 1,800 preventable deaths in a year in that hospital alone.
Dr. Dahlia Wasfi is an Iraqi American physician and activist. She attended the UCSF event to discuss how the war has impacted the Iraqi people. Dahlia spent her early childhood in Iraq. She last visited Iraq last January for 3 months.
The symposium also focused on the ramifications of trauma and torture. The event is being organized by the Iraq Action Group of UCSF. That’s a recently formed group that includes a coalition of students, faculty, and staff members.
Professor Linda Bilmes and Dr. Dahlia Wasfi were guests on the show, which airs today at 10:00 am PST on 91.7 FM in the Bay Area or online. You can also sign up for our podcast.