We found out this week the Bush administration wants $189 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan for next year, the most that they have ever asked for in one year. This is on top of the $460 billion for the DOD's regular budget. The war is costing about half a million dollars per minute. The total cost of just the Iraq war is around $455 billion so far, not counting this newest request.
Don't worry; we can just put it on the national credit card. Until yesterday, that credit card, also known as the national debt, was hitting its legal ceiling. Unlike the rest of us who finally max out on our credit cards, the Federal government can just keep borrowing more. The Senate raised the debt ceiling from $8.965 trillion to $9.815 trillion. This is the fifth time the debt ceiling has been raised under the Bush administration and in just over six years, the Bush administration has raised the national debt by almost $4 trillion.
These numbers are mind-numbing and depressing but, whether you agree with the war or not, one would assume that the troops are getting all the equipment and food that they need. Hate to break it to you, but we aren't even doing that with all this money. Just a few weeks ago, a soldier died in Iraq and his parents were talking to NPR. After they told of their sorrow, they also told of how he and his other fellow soldiers could not get enough war fighting supplies and even underwear and socks. The parents, even through their grief, were concerned about the other soldiers in his unit who didn't have relatives to send them supplies that they needed. This soldier was not based in some obscure area...he was in Mosul. All these high contractor billings are sucking the lifeblood out of the supplemental budget with little oversight. I have documented many of these stories in my book, Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, and I am very disheartened to still hear the troops and the parents of the troops say that they don't have enough basic equipment to fight or even to protect themselves.
Now that I have totally depressed you for the day, here is some potential good news. Yesterday, Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator James Webb, along with all the other Democratic freshmen senators, got an amendment unanimously passed by the Senate to create a new Commission on Wartime Contracting. This new commission was inspired by Harry Truman's wartime committee that investigated WWII contractor fraud which saved over $100 billion in today's dollars. Now it has to pass the House and, more importantly, appoint people to this commission who really want to shake things up, take names and get some of our money back from fraudulent contractor billings. This new commission must also seriously investigate the deep problems that the military has had using private contractors in a war zone in numbers never seen before.
This is still an uphill battle and the powerful war service industry will fight any serious attempts at investigation. But this, along with the media's new interest in Blackwater and other contractors, may start peeling back the layers of fraud and waste in this war. If we can successfully expose even just part of the fraud that has been going on in this war, fasten your seatbelts because you may see one of the biggest scandals of our generation.
If you want to know more, go to my website, www.followthemoneyproject.org.