With news of 135 deaths in a Baghdad market—the largest civilian death toll to date in a single attack since the war began—the de facto "soft" partition of Iraq seems sure to accelerate. As the meltdown continues, firmer estimates of the number of Iraqi refugees are now becoming available. In an article dated February 4th, AP's Hamza Hendawi reports that:
- 1 million refugees, including 300,000 Shi'ites, have fled to Syria, whose population is now 5% Iraqi.
- 700,000 refugees have settled in Jordan, whose Iraqi population would undoubtedly be much larger if men aged 17 to 35 weren't excluded.
- 130,000 refugees have gone to Egypt.
- Both Jordan and Egypt are developing plans to exclude additional refugees, but the Syrian border remains open to Arab Iraqis.
- Only "several hundred" Iraqis were admitted to the U.S. during 2006, and the U.S. has provided little financial assistance to displaced Iraqis in the Middle East at a time when it is spending $2 billion a week on the war. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is demanding that the U.S. accept 20,000 refugees this year and increase its meager financial contribution to refugees in the Middle East.
- Iraqis in Syria have set up a private university near Damascus, "with Iraqi lecturers and a mostly Iraqi student body - a reflection of Iraq's war-driven brain drain."
- The UN projects that the number of "internally displaced" refugees in Iraq will soon surpass 2.3 million, or about 10% of the total population.
As in the past, information about the magnitude of the suffering caused by the war in Iraq is given scant attention in the U.S. mainstream media.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry estimates that 1,000 Iraqis have been killed in the past week.
Redefining "victory" in Iraq
And the net result of all this misery? From Reuter's:
"Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution said the United States may now have to settle for an Iraq that was 'a wee bit better than Syria' in terms of democratic standards."Apparently O'Hanlon is describing a best-case scenario.
Economic costs of the war
Projections of the potential economic costs to the U.S.—not to mention Iraq—vary even more wildly than casualty estimates. So far the U.S. has allocated $400 million to the Iraq war alone, and "one estimate puts the total economic impact at up to $2 trillion."
Note that even the lowest current projections are eight times higher than "the number that's something under $50 billion" proposed by Donald Rumsfeld before the war began.
The Pentagon is spending about $6 billion a month on the war in Iraq, or about $200 million a day, according to the CBO. That is about the same as the gross domestic product of Nigeria.The highest (and probably most realistic) estimates include such future expenses as "$300 billion in future health care costs for wounded troops" but exclude such costs as "a negative impact from the rising cost of oil and added interest on the national debt."(2)
For taxpayers here in Oregon, according to one estimate, the war has cost $2.9 billion or $829 per person.
(1) From the Lancet study, which included only deaths up to July, 2006. If civilian deaths have averaged 1,000 a month, conservatively estimated, the current total would be at least 662,000.
(2) In a bizarre exercise in Realpolitik, the American Enterprise and Brookings institutes have come up with an "online sensitivity analysis" that allows anyone to develop estimates of the Iraq war by tinkering with nine assumptions, including: duration of the U.S. occupation, number of military and civilian casualties on all sides and the "value of a statistical life." Their own calculations attempt to balance the actual costs of the war with the "avoided" costs, but even their latest estimates are quite dated.
GRAPHIC: Reuter's/Ali Jasim