It was supposed to be a quick war and a cheap one. Five years later, 160,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq. And the costs keep piling up - $12 billion every month - putting a strain on an already faltering economy.
The United States has poured more than $500 billion into Iraq, mostly for military operations. But that figure is just a small piece of the much larger bill that taxpayers will pay in the future.
Because the money for the war is being borrowed, interest payments could add another $615 billion. A heavily depleted military will have to be rebuilt at a cost of $280 billion. Disability benefits and health care for Iraq war veterans, many of them severely injured, could add another half-trillion dollars over their lifetime.
Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University public finance Professor Laura Bilmes, both of whom served in the Clinton administration, have included those calculations in a new study of the war's long-term costs. Their estimate of the war's price tag: $3 trillion.
But Vice President Dick Cheney gave an upbeat view of conditions in Iraq as he concluded his unannounced trip to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion. Cheney also defended the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as part of the struggle against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"This long-term struggle became urgent on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 . That day we clearly saw that dangers can gather far from our own shores and find us right there at home," said Cheney, who was accompanied by his wife, Lynne, and their daughter, Elizabeth.
"So the United States made a decision: to hunt down the evil of terrorism and kill it where it grows, to hold the supporters of terror to account and to confront regimes that harbor terrorists and threaten the peace," Cheney said. "Understanding all the dangers of this new era, we have no intention of abandoning our friends or allowing this country of 170,000 square miles to become a staging area for further attacks against Americans."
A happy war anniversary to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and all their co-conspirators.