We Really Can’t Get Any Stupider, Can We? [Updated]

So I wake up this morning hung over from a night of drinking Guinness, and what do I see on my web browser when I open it? Why, I see this amazingly stupid article with the following title:

Is the Iraq war a relative bargain?

No, really. That is the title of the article. Someone who supposedly has experience in journalism thought it would be a good idea to put the words “is” and “the” and “Iraq” and “war” and “a” and “relative” and “bargain” together in the same sentence and then not add the words “you’re” and “fucking” and “joking” and at the end.

Let’s check this out:

After four years, America’s cost for the war in Iraq has reached nearly $500 billion — more than the total for the Korean War and nearly as much as 12 years in Vietnam, adjusting for inflation. The ultimate cost could reach $1 trillion or more.

A lot of money? No question.

But even though the war has turned out to be much more expensive than Bush administration officials predicted on the eve of the March 2003 invasion, it is relatively affordable — at least in historical terms.

Iraq eats up less than 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, compared with as much as 14 percent for Vietnam and 9 percent for Korea.

“I think it’s hard to argue it’s not affordable,� said Steven M. Kosiak, director of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense think tank in Washington, D.C.

You know, I think the premise of this article has some, shall we say, flaws.

I think the biggest flaw is its assumption that the Iraq war’s suckiness has anything to do with its cost. I mean, sure it sucks that we’re paying so much money to see a bunch of people get killed. But the main issue with the Iraq war is actually that a lot of people are getting killed, not to mention the fact that our reputation as a nation that elects semi-sane leaders has been flushed down the crapper.

Put it like this: let’s say I pay a chimpanzee two cents every day to come over to my house, pull down my pants, light a match and singe one of my pubic hairs. “Ouch!” you say. “Bradrocket, that seems like an awfully silly thing to do!” “Nonsense!” I say in between howls of burnt-pubis agony. “I’m only paying this chimp two cents a day to do this!! TWO CENTS!!! AAAAAAAAARGH, DAMMIT, MY PUBES!!!!! YOU CAN’T EVEN GET MIGRANT LABOR THAT CHEAP!!!! IT’S A DAMN BARGAIN!!!!”

And that, Mr. Journalist, is basically what the Iraq war is like, but much, much worse. Please keep that in mind the next time you write an article about the war being a “bargain.”

Gavin adds: Say, are those GPD numbers also corrected for inflation (i.e. Real GDP), or is someone flunking Econ 101 by mixing adjusted dollars with unadjusted Nominal GDP figures — which would, you know, make Iraq seem much, much cheaper than it actually is?

D’oh! The GDP numbers for Vietnam are off by roughly a factor of four!

Extra fun: Use the column for Real GDP Per Capita (at right) to skew the figures in the other direction.


Comments: 39


The editor of the piece needs to be canned. After Kosiak’s glowing endorsement comes a long litany of why Iraq is costing so much more than its worth.

All being funded with ‘supplemental bills’ instead of included in the budget.
Funded TOTALLY by credit. Tax breaks and outsourcing during a war?
Cost will only continue to rise as health care for wounded vets comes due.

But the editor at AP worked overtime to undermine the information there.

I’ve never paid attention but does AP put out opinion pieces with nobody’s name on them regularly?


I saw a brand new war (still in the box) down at the 99-cents Store just yesterday. It had hundreds of thousands dead for no reason, a new generation of mangled, haunted veterans, a complete surrender of the nation’s moral authority, and everything.

They should shop around.


Relative bargain? How many dead soldiers are there in a bargain? Cheaper by the thousand? Is that the deal of the year or what?


Heck, if one war for a trillion dollars is a bargain, two wars for two trillion is a damn steal! Let’s invade Mexico!


1. In The Who’s “Bargain,” noted neocon Pete Townshend sets forth one of the foundational principles of wingnut mathematics: “One and one don’t make two; one and one make one.”

2. Chris Jordan has a graphic representation of the daily cost of the war in Iraq, rendered in $100 bills (via FP Passport).


Someone once offered to beat the shit out of me, and didn’t charge me anything. While it was painful, I had to admit that it was definitely a bargain.


shouldn’t that be the “center for strategeric and budgetariseric assessments”? by the way, they get most of their money from a foundation dedicated to ending all regulation on big business.


I was beaten up in Barcelona, and it only cost me about $700 in traveler’s checks and a Eurail pass. Plus a night’s stay in an emergency clinic for treatment of my concussion. And, I got my traveler’s checks reimbursed in full with a week. All in all, a bargain at twice the price.


Hey, if the Iraq war ever does end up costing as much, in terms of percent of overall GDP, that the Vietnam war cost, perhaps it will end up being one of the causal factors in a major gobal recession – just like Vietnam was!

And if you think the vicious rhetoric against the backstabbing Liberals is bad now, imagine what it will be like if the global economy tanks, raising American unemployment and poverty levels in the process! Why, the rabid Liberal-haters will be killing us in the streets….it’ll be a riot.

(This, incidentally, happens to be a version of my nightmare scenario. God help us all if anything drastic happens to our economy right about now.)


Not war isn’t just cheap. When you make your kids pay for it, it’s actually free.

I wonder which PR agency planted this as a news story.


That should say “The war isn’t…”. Stupid hangover.


MSNBC is also currently front-paging some hard-hitting analysis from Newsweek entitled:

“Does Gore’s waist hold clues to ’08 race?”


No, really.


Just think of all the money saved on weight loss plans by our amputees!!112!


Who buys wars new these days? The 99-Cents Store, yes, but do the names Craigs List and eBay mean nothing to these people?

Sure, most of the wars on eBay are Buy It Now, but you show some fucking patience, you browse, you wait, and sooner or later you get what you want. It’s called “shopping.” God, these people are idiots.


I’ve often wondered about the whole argument against the war that starts with how we’ve squandered our national resources, “both our young men and women, and our treasure”

This rhetoric is not aimed at the Democratic core constituency. No, this is aimed squarely at the waffling fiscal conservatives and libertarians. Democrats know that these folks don’t honestly care about the deaths of our youth – they’re usually poor (and a drain on the system, to their way of thinking), and often the children of immigrants (some of whom might be illegal, and another fiscal drain on the system). So long as there’s a profit to be garnered, the lives of the poor mean nothing.

No, it’s the second part that’s targeting the fiscally conservative: “Look at how much money this war is costing us. There’s another tax cut, down the drain!” The Dems hope that they can squirrel some of the war’s erstwhile supporters by playing the “too expensive” card, and I suspect it might just work.

So long as the supporter isn’t making a huge sum of money from no-bid contracts.


So a four-year war in Iraq has cost as much as a 12-year war in Vietnam? Wha . . . ? In the words of Patton Oswalt, “Wait, stop — why is THAT good?”


It’d be even cheaper if we just nuked them. Think of the savings!


Jillian sez:

God help us all if anything drastic happens to our economy right about now.

Knock Knock

Who’s that? Why, it’s the New Century Financial Corporation!


Every child who dies from a nuke goes straight to heaven. So nuking children makes god happy!


Oh, good Lord, please don’t talk to me about the housing market.

Or the steady decline of the dollar against the pound and the euro (or the fricking Canadian dollar – since when is a Canadian dollar worth eighty-five cents?!).

Or the massive amount of our Treasury debt held by China.

You see, any one of these things alone would be enough to leave me crying in my beer. All three of them together are enough to leave me curled up in a corner, hyperventillating, and crying in my beer.

There is a huge amount of unfocused resentment out there in this country against the things that done us wrong. If circumstances get genuinely tough in this country – as opposed to just threatening to get tough – I’m scared to think what my fellow countrymen will do.


Apparently, I’m unnerved enough by the thought that I cannot even close tags correctly!


On a less depressing note: You’ve been Atlas Scooped, boyos.


Shorter wingnutz: Everybody plays the fool…of course, wingnutz version goes “All the Timez!!11eleven!!”


When you’ve got bored, angry and possibly loaded 23 year old Navy FACs and 24 year old El Tees that can call in all manner of supporting arms, you’re always gonna get cases where you throw some ordinance just ’cause your pissed or because it’s cool (and it really is, especially when they bring the fast movers in)…



For that price, we can have 13 wars and still be under the Vietnam GDP limit …

Bomb FINLAND !!!!


Someone once offered to beat the shit out of me, and didn’t charge me anything. While it was painful, I had to admit that it was definitely a bargain.

Noshhittt … that’s right !!!!

In Dirty Harry, the creepy killer guy had to pay like $200 cash (in 1972 dollars) for the real mean black dude in the abandoned building to beat the crap out of him so he could blame it on Clint Eastwood ….


If we just nuke China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, then we won’t have to pay them back for the money we borrowed to fight Iraq.

That’s a better bargain than those $1 stores.


Sorry. I don’t burn pubes for less than a dime a day.


are you sure about the GDP figures being off by so much. If you divide $500 billion, which the article says is nearly the adjusted amount for Vietnam, by the real GDP figures in the column for, say, 1972, its about 11% of GDP. i dont get how theyre off by so much. measuring against the nominal numbers on the left would be mixing nominal and adjusted.

but still, measuring as a percent of GDP is a particularly stupid approach, since the point does indeed seem to be to make iraq look cheap, when we could just as easily say that this 4 year conflict that has cost as much as a 12 year one.

This still ignores the economy-wide impact of the war, not just its immediate cost, which Joe Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes put around $2 trillion, which is closer to 18% of GDP. Of course some assholes at the U. of Chicago pointed out that to be relevant, you have to measure the economy-wide cost of war to the economy-wide cost of containment. and of course they have a huge range of that cost which makes the comparison useless, if only to make it arguable the war was “worth” it. yea ok, thanks guys.

here are those two papers if anyone didn’t already feel like killing themselves today.




500 hundred BILLION dollars would go a long way toward paying for social housing, public health insurance and improved health care, day care, education, pensions, rebuilding in katrina-affected areas, environmental protection, etc. etc. etc.

the human and social cost of war, at home and abroad, is staggering. every dime this war has taken has been WASTED.

That's MISTER Wingnut to you

Affordable? Hell, yes! And with my tax cuts, I gotta tell you, this war ain’t costin’ me a damn nickel!

So bring it on, you smelly brown bastards!



500 hundred BILLION dollars would go a long way toward paying for social housing, public health insurance and improved health care, day care, education, pensions, rebuilding in katrina-affected areas, environmental protection, etc. etc. etc.

Yeah, like we would ever want to waste money on stupid junk like that.

You liberals are so disco-era.

a different brad

Y’know, in a way it’s almost reassuring that the AP ran this article, instead of a wingnut.
It’d really mess with my worldview if a wingnut said it’s ok to waste money.
Lives, whatevah.
But money?
Capital is what jebus hides in.
With a golden plunger up his arse, too.


Analysis of Oil/Blood ratio:

The human body contains 1.5 gal. of blood.

An oil drum can hold 55 gal.

So that’s 36 humans who have to die to offset one marginal barrel of oil.

If we assume inputs of 500,000 humans so far, that’s 13,889 barrels of blood.

We have clearly exported over 13,889 barrels of oil; therefore, it’s a bargain!

Qetesh the Shaved Abyssinian

See, this is where my Privatised Cabbage War scenario really comes into it’s own.

First, it boosts the cabbage industry, which is not to be sneezed at. Second, you can reuse your soldiers in as many wars as you like, and if there’s any cabbages left at the end you can eat them (the cabbages, not the soldiers).

And finally, the big clincher, it would put the American economy firmly in the black, my friends. Think of it, who wouldn’t pay money, and a hefty sum at that, to see Dubya striding into the arena at the head of 200,000 of America’s finest. Think of how proudly that feather would wave, although he’d have to be crouching to stop it dragging in the dirt. Think of the diehard sports fans, cheering on their troops hurling well-aimed brassica at the lurking foe, plucking forth feathers from the fallen to raise them high for a triumphant roar from the crowd.

The spectacle! The splendour! The pageantry! Imagine the tension in the final moments of a tied game, as the entire American armed forces jams their feathers up Dubya’s jaxy and forces him into an awkward, stumbling run around the arena! Will he beat the fleet-footed Al Qaeda leader, who has only 1500 feathers to hang onto? Will he drop a feather and have to start again? What does 200,000 feathers stuck up your arse do to a man’s world view, anyway?

I tells ya, it’d be a guaranteed, solid gold, winner. I’m off to trademark the idea now.

Herr Doktor Bimler

What does 200,000 feathers stuck up your arse do to a man’s world view, anyway?
There are a couple of Australian politicians who might be able to answer that question.
Andrew Peacock comes to mind.


So the argument is that the Iraq War isn’t as big of a waste as the Vietnam War. That’s probably true, at least if loss of life is factored in. But talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations…

Qetesh the Shaved Abyssinian

Yes, Herr Doktor, perhaps, but Andrew would have had his inserted one at a time, playfully, by an unnamed actress. That’s very different to having them jammed up all at once by a bunch of very fit, hair-triggered, grunts who are keen to win the cup.

What a crowd-pleaser. Just thinking about the commercial possibilities makes me feel faint.


You know what else would be “relatively affordable — at least in historical terms” – national healthcare for every American.


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