A fiscal postmortem of the Iraq War

By Tom Quiner

It’s been a decade since the Iraq War began. Voices on the left are clear:  our fiscal problems that continue under President Obama are the result of an unnecessary war on Iraq forced on the country by former President Bush.

Democratic Party strategist, James Carville, is blunt:

“It was under Mr Bush that the deficit spiralled out of control as we fought an unnecessary and endless $3,000bn war in Iraq…”

Writing in the Washington Post, Linda Bilmes (a member of Harvard’s faculty) and economist Joseph Stiglitz were even blunter:

“The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can’t spend $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.”

Writing in The Nation, Christopher Hayes is bluntest:

“First, the facts. Nearly the entire deficit for this year and those projected into the near and medium terms are the result of three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession. The solution to our fiscal situation is: end the wars…”

The Iraq War certainly makes voices from the political Left emotional.  Fortunately, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has weighed in with a detailed financial analysis of the war’s cost.  It turns out the folks above were just plain misinformed.

It is certainly fair to argue if the fruits of our efforts were worth the tremendous cost to our nation.

Reasonable voices can debate if the removal of a mass-murdering dictator and the establishment of a democratically-elected government were worth it.

Reasonable voices can argue if the piece of mind knowing that the country truly is free of weapons of mass destruction are worth it.

The jury is still out on Iraq, and a healthy debate should continue on whether the price was worth it.

However, when it comes to deficits, the debate is over.  The CBO spells it out.  The war accounted for just 3.2% of federal government spending while it lasted.

Look at defense spending under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in the 60s when it accounted for 46% of all federal spending.  Contrast that with Bush II when defense spending was less than 20% of federal outlays.

The chart above really lays it on the line.  The last year Republicans were in charge of the budget was 2007.  Deficits exploded after Democrats took over.  The biggest culprit is Obama’s stimulus package which will cost far more than the Iraq War ever did.

And for the record, we went to war with Iraq on the basis of bipartisan Congressional Iraq War Resolution (H.J. Res 114).  In the House, 82 Democrats voted to go to war; in the Senate, 29 Democrats voted to go to war.

The next time you hear an angry voice blaming our deficits on the Iraq War, tell them to talk to the non-partisan CBO.


  1. Bob Vance on March 25, 2013 at 9:37 am

    How do you put a price on the deaths of our soldiers?

    • quinersdiner on March 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

      One can’t. Human life is incalculable from the instant of conception.

  2. Bob Vance on March 25, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Given the high number of miscarriages (many women don’t even realize they were even pregnant), how do you rationalize this with an omnipotent God?

    • quinersdiner on March 25, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Man cannot understand all of God’s ways.

      • Bob Vance on March 25, 2013 at 10:49 am

        I assume you would agree that God understands all of man’s ways.

        Given that man cannot understand all of God’s ways, how do you know that abortions are part of God’s plan?

        Since we know some deaths of innocents are justifed in God’s eyes, how can you say this is not just another method God chooses to fulfill his plan?

        • quinersdiner on March 25, 2013 at 11:03 am

          Because God said “thou shalt not kill.”

    • Bob Vance on March 25, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Continued here – no Reply option.

      Throughout the Bible, God has instructed man to kill, so God does make exceptions even to the Ten Commandments.

      Even to killing pregnant women, and children:
      Hosea 13:16 “The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”

      So I will ask again: Since we know some deaths of innocents are justifed in God’s eyes, how can you say this is not just another method God chooses to fulfill his plan?

      • quinersdiner on March 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

        Because He sent His Son who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves; to forgive; to love lavishly.

  3. Bob Vance on March 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    “Because He sent His Son who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves; to forgive; to love lavishly.”

    I understand that answer works when you are talking to your friends at the end of a day at church – everyone walks away with a warm fuzzy feeling without having to put too much thought into it.

    How does your answer address the question: Since we know some deaths of innocents are justified in God’s eyes, how can you say this [abortion] is not just another method God chooses to fulfill his plan? Are you saying prior to Jesus, God did not love all his children? God punished by death quite a bit.

    You, like many, seemed surprised when I told you I did not believe in a Biblical God but I am against abortion. Most believers think only they can have true morality. I maintain that religion does not define morality but instead morality defines religion. Look at slavery. God endorsed it in the OT, while little is said in the NT. How much pain and suffering could Jesus have avoided if only he said “Slavery is wrong”. Of course, most people will argue that God always saw slavery as wrong. Regardless, most sane people today see slavery as wrong, even evil.

    When I talk to the religious, the argument usually falls back to “God is too complex to understand”. It’s sort of the catch-all when logic fails, especially when you claim to understand him with certainty on almost everything else. It seems odd to me you would have a God that changes with the times (humans were around thousands of years before God sent His Son) when time by definition would not be a limitation to God.

    • Karen Quiner on March 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm


      The Bible has to be taken as a whole. The Old Testament is only understood properly when taken in context with the New. We do not take the individual details literally, but believe it is teaching inerrant truths.

      For example, Catholics do not believe the world was created in 7 days. The story of Genesis is teaching us that God created everything out of nothing, that He created us in His image, intended us to live in paradise, that He gave us free will, and that we decided we could do it without Him, and that this affected everything that has followed since then. We still think we can do it without Him.

      He just wants us back in paradise.

      The story of Abraham and Isaac on the mountain is not about Abraham slaughtering his son, the story is telling a deeper truth, and the truth is that God wants our total trust.

      Many of the stories of war are really teaching that God will be with His people, often against all odds.

      The story of David and Goliath is really teaching how God can give great power to the small and apparently weak if we trust God. Real power comes from Him.

      The Bible has always been written in the literary style of the day using flesh and blood people. God doesn’t direct the pen, but instead directs the heart to convey a message He wants conveyed.

      The New Testament can be taken more literally, especially the words of Jesus. We believe he actually died and rose again. We believe that He is with us throughout time, particularly through the sacraments of the Church. We believe that He will come again.

      Regarding slavery, it was the reality of the time. It was never endorsed. What Jesus taught is that every human has value, equal value. We believe that He taught us all we need to know, but that over the centuries those truths continue to be opened to us.

      “You, like many, seemed surprised when I told you I did not believe in a Biblical God but I am against abortion. Most believers think only they can have true morality.”

      You are actually wrong about that, neither Tom nor I are surprised by it. We believe that you don’t need religion to argue against abortion.

      Nor am I surprised you are a moral guy. I know plenty of agnostics who are moral. We have friends and family who are agnostic. However, I do believe that we don’t have the ability to love perfectly without the help of God. I know this may make you bristle, but when we love unselfishly, it is because of God living in us. When we are selfish, we are not being prompted by God. I have had enough conversation with you to know that not only are you an open minded guy, but I get the impression that you know what it means to love unselfishly. I think that is because you have not slammed the door shut on God and that He is influencing you and living in you.

      I don’t claim to be one who always loves unselfishly and with the love of God. There are very few who can, but I am striving for it.

      There are lots sinful people in church. That is not surprising to anyone who knows what this faith business is all about. Where Christians fall down is when they judge others for sinning. We are not supposed to do that. Jesus was pretty firm on that.

      That doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to call evil when we see it, and fight it when we can. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Loving the sinner can sometimes mean you don’t enable harmful behavior, but you love them so much that you want better for them, always acknowledging that we have our own weaknesses and sins.

      Some of the pro-aborts will say, “but how can you judge a woman who has an abortion?” And my answer to that would be that I don’t judge a woman who has had an abortion. I can’t possibly know her situation. That doesn’t mean I don’t think abortion is wrong. And I believe I have to do what I can to end it.

      People who don’t go to church love to point at Christians and say how hypocritical they are and that we love to sit in church and feel good about ourselves on Sunday and never do anything to help the poor or anyone outside of our church. That is certainly not what Jesus taught us and if His message doesn’t bring about a radical change in our lives, hearts and behavior, we missed the message, or didn’t get it yet. For some reason, people who don’t believe (a recent commentator) like to portray us as all rich and living in gated communities. How in the world do they come to that conclusion? Sure there are rich hypocritical, hateful people in church. There are also good people who got the message.

      Bad things, horrible things have been done in the name of the Church, but that is not what Jesus teaches. A wise man once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, It hasn’t been tried.”

      But so much of the good in the world has been done in the name of Christ and His Church. Much of the beautiful art has been done in the name of God, so much of the good in third world countries has been done under the banner of the Church, the church has started universities and hospitals. It has been involved in scientific research. Some of the most beautiful music has been inspired by and written for God.

      We read an interesting piece recently by a gay man who is an atheist, working as a journalist in London, but was raised in Africa. He said that most, if not all, of the real good in Africa is being done by Christians.

      And finally Bob, we DON’T understand the ways of God. I know that is an unsatisfying answer to someone without any religious belief, but it is true. I have come to understand that some of the things that I think have been bad in my life, end up bringing about tremendous good. We have only the short view. God sees the whole picture. He didn’t promise us it would be easy, He just promised to be with us.

      Thanks for your comments, and for your open mind. I get exhausted by the evangelical atheists. Christians want to give something we consider valuable and good to people, the evangelical atheists want to take something away, to tear down, to mock and spit. The only way I can explain their evangelical zeal is that they are trying to convince themselves.

      I honestly have never ever felt that from you and it is why I am interested in conversing with you.

      Take care. (and God Bless you.) Sorry, I can’t help myself. 🙂

  4. Bob Vance on March 25, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    When the going gets tough, Bob brings out the big guns – his wife Karen. 🙂

    Which works…

    It’s like when I was a teen and my brother and I would get into arguments. Once Mom came out, we both knew it was over. It didn’t matter who was winning. Out of respect or fear or maybe a combination of both, we moved on.

    Just for your information, I have many people who pray for me. I find it flattering that they care.

    • Karen Quiner on March 25, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Tom was in the middle of a big project and didn’t have the time to respond today and asked me if I wanted to. I happily obliged.

      Tom and I have been married for 35 years and are so much on the same page when it comes to faith that a response from either of us is a response from both of us.

      There is nothing we would both love more than to be able to support ourselves doing the things we love the most, but it hasn’t happened yet.

      There is always that unfortunate detail of having to bring home a paycheck.

      Have a good evening and thanks again for coming to our blog.

      • Bob Vance on March 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm

        Nothing but good thoughts here. I hope that is the way you took it.

      • Karen Quiner on March 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

        I did.