Money mess created by six years of Iraq

by Al Neuharth, USA TODAY Founder

Much is being written and said about the new stimulus law (officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). Not enough of us explain or realize why we’re in this money mess.

It’s primarily because we’ve spent or authorized more money on the Iraq war (its sixth anniversary is next Thursday) than we’re putting into the stimulus program. Comparison:

•The Iraq war $864 billion.

•The stimulus program $787 billion.

Sure, greedy bankers, covetous Wall Streeters, irresponsible buyers of homes and cars they couldn’t afford all contributed to this recession. But if we hadn’t blown that huge bundle in Iraq, we could have handled our problems here at home more easily.


Most of us consider Iraq to have been President Bush’s biggest blunder. It was, but Congress voted to let him do it. Five months before we invaded Iraq, I wrote in this column on Oct. 4, 2002:

"Congress is ‘debating,’ but President Bush and his hawkish cohorts are demanding a virtual blank check to wage war on Iraq. They’ll probably get it. That’s a mistake."

Many Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans in Congress gave Bush that blank check. Votes on the Iraq resolution:

• House of Representatives: Yes, 215 Republicans, 81 Democrats.

• Senate: Yes, 48 Republicans, 29 Democrats.

By contrast, the votes on President Obama’s recovery or stimulus plan to clean up the mess that Congress helped create with the Iraq misadventure:

• House: 246 Democrats, 0 Republicans.

• Senate: 56 Democrats, 3 Republicans.

Both parties got us into this mess, but only one is trying to get us out of it. As a political independent, I understand that. No matter your party affiliation or inclination, you should, too.

Other views on Iraq and stimulus

"We averaged 8% of our GDP on defense over a decades-long Cold War and never faced an economic downturn like this. Today all defense spending, including Iraq, is only 4% of GDP. Blaming the Pentagon for the recession is just bad math."

— James Carafano, research fellow, Heritage Foundation

"I led the effort against the war in Iraq. It was as wrong then as it is today. We need to bring the troops home and begin to repair the damage we’ve done to Iraq and to our own economy."

— Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio



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