Emergency spending bill helps illustrate cost of war
The Bush administration's decision to fund the war in Iraq with supplemental, emergency appropriations rather than through the traditional budgetary process has had a corollary, though surely unintended, benefit.
It helps define the actual cost of the war.
The Senate on Thursday approved an $94.5 billion emergency spending bill, approving President Bush's funding requests for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for aid to Gulf Coast hurricane victims.
Most of the $94.5 billion — $66 billion — will go to the Pentagon for overseas military operations. That will bring the tally for the campaign in Iraq to $320 billion and $89 billion for the one in Afghanistan.
Billions of dollars are hard for the average American to comprehend. A billion is 1,000 million. To help put that $66 billion in this year's war costs in perspective, consider that the emergency appropriation includes a mere $3.7 billion for Louisiana flood-control projects and $5.2 billion for grants to states affected by last year's hurricanes.
Of course, one cannot measure the cost of the war in Iraq in dollars alone.
The Pentagon announced Thursday that the death toll of U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq has reached 2,500 since the war began in 2003.
While 320 billion is a lot of dollars to spend, one could argue that the number of lost brave young American lives is even more expensive.