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Are Iraq war costs spinning out of control?

The tab is $423 billion and rising, prompting economists to reassess US military and homeland security costs.

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The invasion of Iraq was launched four years ago with a "shock and awe" display of American military might. As bombs fell, Baghdad's skyline lit up.

Today, United States taxpayers are faced with a bill for the war that could also inspire shock and awe.

Through Sunday, the war's cost was $423 billion, according to an online cost meter posted by the National Priorities Project, a Washington advocacy group (http://costofwar.com/index.html).The last five digits on the meter are spinning far faster than the electricity meter in your home. Last Wednesday, the bill was $422 billion.

The mounting financial burden is prompting various think-tank experts to reassess the nation's military and homeland security costs.

Reviewing what Congress has approved so far for war spending, Steven Kosiak, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, reckons $370 billion for Iraq, $100 billion for Afghanistan, and $30 billion for homeland security activities. That adds up to $500 billion for the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).

Last week President Bush vetoed a $124 billion war-spending bill because it contained timetables for troop withdrawal. Of that amount, some $93 billion was for the Iraq war in fiscal 2007.

Mr. Bush's new budget asks for $142 billion to fund war efforts in fiscal 2008. Of this, about $110 billion would be for Iraq, says Mr. Kosiak.

These numbers are huge. The National Priorities website reckons the money spent on the war could have alternatively paid for more than 20 million four-year scholarships at public universities or 3.7 million public housing units.

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