It's Not Just Blood That's Hemorrhaging in Iraq
08.10.2006 04:56 | DISPATCHES
Drowning in a sea of red ink.
In financial journalism, you're advised to break down numbers into bite-size chunks the reader can digest. Matthew Yglesias does his best with his valuable July American Prospect cover story, "The Price Is Wrong," in which he cites the cost of Iraq, when all is said and done, as $1.27 trillion.
"A trillion," he writes, "is what you get if you spend a million dollars a day. . . for a million days." Despite providing comparisons to help us get a handle on it, he concedes, "The number is so high as to defy human comprehension."
It's the financial equivalent of the Big Lie -- too outsized in its impudence to be possible. In fact, the cost of Iraq might better be compared to a nuclear attack. At the time, you have no idea what hit you. Years later, though you may have survived, you still don't.
"What's more," Yglesias writes, "by combining the war with aggressive tax cutting, the administration has ensured that the operation is paid for entirely by borrowing money on which interest will need to be paid."
"Oh, they'll just print more money like they always do," we rationalize. Or "China will never stop lending us money. They need us solvent to buy their products." Or, maybe, deep down, we're comforted by government spending because it validates debt, which has become a way of life to most of us.
By outlining 11 alternative uses to which the money might have been put, Yglesias reminds us that war is always a failure of the imagination. But is there an end in sight? The deluge of red ink, he warns us, will only continue if "we launch a new war with Iran."