Shortly before the invasion of Iraq, George Bush’s economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, estimated that the war would cost $200 billion. ‘Baloney,’ Donald Rumsfeld fumed, offering a figure of $50-60 billion, some of which he said would be supplied by America’s friends. Andrew Natsios, the head of the Agency for International Development, told Ted Koppel on Nightline that postwar Iraq could be rebuilt for $1.7 billion. Koppel was astonished: ‘No more than that?’ ‘For the reconstruction,’ Natsios replied. ‘And then there’s $700 million in the supplemental budget for humanitarian relief, which we don’t competitively bid because it’s charities that get that money.’ According to Paul Wolfowitz, the reconstruction would be financed by increased oil revenue in Iraq. The war had nothing to do with oil, of course, but the country’s vast reserves happily ensured that postwar ‘nation-building’ would be cheap, if not free.
The full text of this essay is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.
You are not logged in
[*] The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict (Allen Lane, 311 pp., £20, February, 978 1 846 14128 7).