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Estimating War Damages Sustained by Iraq (2003 - 2010)

In several studies, estimates of Iraq war damages sustained by the United States have ranged around $1-$3 trillion. In this current study, measure of war damages sustained by the people and country of Iraq is estimated at $394.4 billion. This figure consists of 66,081 individuals who lost their lives. The present value of their work life earnings and pain and suffering of their heirs amounted to $14.2 billion. Moreover 176,382 individuals sustained injuries ranging from 100% disability to 25% disability incurring monetary damages for medical care and loss of earnings in the amount of $6.0 billion. The war caused 1.9 million individual Iraqi's to emigrate outside of Iraq leaving the war behind including their jobs and property sustaining $30.8 billion of damages. Another 2.65 million Iraqis migrated internally from violent regions to less violent regions in Iraq who sustained damages of $33.9 billion. The economy of Iraq lost 27 years of economic progress. The decline in lost Iraqi GDP caused by the war is estimated at $309.5 billion. Societal loss creating social discords including sectarian strife is not quantified.

Sources of data include Iraq Body Count, the Brookings Institute, NGOs, and U.S. government. The best casualties estimate is made by an organization called the Iraq Body Count. This organization surveys the news for each incident and reports the body count. According to Body Count the deaths in the database are derived from a comprehensive survey of commercial media and NGO-based reports, along with official records that have been released into the public sphere. The Brookings Institute in a regularly updated paper called the Iraq Index provides an estimate of the Iraqi Coalition Fighters who lost their lives. Since the Iraq Body Count only includes civilian casualties, the Coalition Fighter deaths must be added to the body count from the Brookings Institute estimates.

Relegating the blame game to historians to assess the real motivation for the Iraq war and to determine the degree of fault whether it was negligence, intentional or malicious culpability on the part of the aggressor. Proceedings such as the British Chilquot Inquiry and others in the future are expected to shed light on the issue although ostensibly the absence of credible evidence of the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq establishes prima facea case of gross negligence. It follows that as a starting point; estimates of the damages of the U.S. war in Iraq are predicated upon legal theory of tort. Economic damages were estimated via opportunity cost and calculated on the basis of the present value and future value of the stream of damages that the war inflicted and will continue to inflict for generations of Iraqi people and society. The psychological and medical scars of this war are pervasive. The devastating effects of the Iraq war where culpability is still undetermined and the cause of action is still unclear to many and is being debated.

It is time to shed light on the measure of damages sustained by Iraq and inflicted by armed combat, but it stands as a harsh reminder to members of governments to fully analyze the full economic, medical, and psychological consequences of all decisions they make concerning wars. Iraq sustained damages to its social structure including ethnic, tribal, and clan, sectarian and socio-political discord as a result of the war which is not quantified.

This post is an abstract of a larger study at the Department of Economics, University of Southern California and is being presented (1/7/11) to the annual meeting of the Economic Association of the Middle East in conjunction with the American Economic Association in Denver, Colorado. Nake M. Kamrany is Professor of Economics and Director of Law and Economics at USC. Megan Siefert is Research Associate at USC and Pepperdine Law School.

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