Books, not bombs? Like a golden oldie from the Reagan Eighties, CNN’s Tom Foreman forwarded the classic liberal claim on Monday’s (noon Eastern) "Your World Today" show that the Iraq war is so costly that it could have been better spent on hundreds of grade schools or millions of new teachers, new cargo inspectors, and new cops -- or "every American driver could get free gasoline for a year."
Anchor Jim Clancy began by lamenting all the money "poured down the hole" on Iraq:
"Turning back to Iraq now, it is a loaded question, for sure, Hala, and it's this -- do you have any idea at all how much money in U.S. taxes have poured down the hole, so to speak, in Iraq?"
Anchor Hala Gorani: "Well, I have a general idea, but it's a safe assumption to say that few people do, at least in terms of how much each individual is paying, but some are following the spiraling costs very closely. Tom Foreman is one of them."
At least CNN admitted they're in the business of basing their news on "loaded questions." Foreman, an old ABC News hand, compiled a nice "progressive think tank" video news release, complete with the same spiraling cost estimate number the tank put on its website:
Foreman: "If you study Iraq in purely financial terms and say, show me the money, it's quite a show. This is how much America taxpayers are paying for the war -- more than $350 million and still climbing, based on government records compiled and computed by a progressive think tank, the National Priorities Project. Ken Pollack is with the Brookings Institution."
Ken Pollack, Brookings: "One of the great tragedies of Iraq is that the administration has mismanaged this war so badly that it has wound up costing the taxpayers far more than it might have had things been handled otherwise."
Pollack, by the way, favored war in Iraq, and wrote a book on the Saddam threat titled "The Gathering Storm." He also has an "in" at CNN: he’s married to CNN reporter Andrea Koppel, daughter of Ted. Or maybe Ted got his old colleague Foreman to put Pollack on.
There is no doubt that billions have been wasted in Iraq due to waste, fraud, and abuse. However, there is doubt that if a Democratic president was managing a major foreign-aid program of this kind, that the Democrat would be blamed for the waste, fraud, and abuse. It’s more likely that it would be either ignored or blamed on the corruption of the locals, and of course, a liberal is always to be praised for his good humanitarian intentions. Back to the story, where Foreman began suggesting Team Bush is fudging the cost numbers:
Foreman: "How much money has been spent on Iraq? The Priorities Project Estimates enough to hire more than six million teachers, enough to build more than 700 new elementary schools, in each state. Eight million police officers could be hired, or six million cargo inspectors for ports. Or, we figure, every American driver could get free gasoline for a year. In the complex world of government budgets, the total estimate can be fairly questioned, but it's a lot more than the White House wants to suggest."
Bush soundbite from 2003: "Today I'm sending the Congress a wartime supplemental appropriations request of $74.7 billion to fund needs directly arising from the Iraqi conflict and our global war against terror."
This is a bit misleading since Bush makes no "gotcha" statement in this old clip that the war would be cheap, only that he proposed a supplemental spending bill, which he’s done to fund the war in each budget cycle. It ended this way:
Foreman: "Government investigators say billions have been loss to fraud, mismanagement or bad bookkeeping. And the spending won’t end when the fighting does. American troops and equipment have held up well.
USAF Major Gen. Don Sheppard (Ret.): "I could see the cost of war going up another 50 percent, and maybe even doubling because of what we have to do to replace personnel, ammunition and equipment over a long period of time."
Foreman: "Plenty of people argue that establishing democracy anywhere is worth whatever it takes, and of course no one can put a value on all of the brave young lives lost, or calculate the cost of leaving. But the price tag of the war so far is impressive. In time it took you to watch this story, Iraq cost America almost $500,000 more. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington."
(Hat tip: Michelle Humphrey)