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Iraq war cost estimates run into the trillions

New book says war will cost at least $3 trillion before it's over.

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Next week, the Iraq war enters its sixth year. As casualties mount (about 4,000 American soldiers killed since the start of the war in March 2003), so do the bills.

"The cost is going up every month," says Linda Bilmes, an expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She estimates the short-term, "running cost" has reached $12.5 billion a month. That's up from $4.4 billion a month in 2003. Add in long-term factors, such as the care of veterans and interest on federal debt incurred as a result of the war, and the cost piles up to $25 billion a month nowadays.

Last September in a phone interview, Ms. Bilmes estimated the war's total price tag as easily exceeding $2 trillion. In a book published last month, she and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from Columbia University, New York, estimated the total long-run cost at $3 trillion in 2007 valued dollars. If you add in Afghanistan and various costs to the economy, the sum reaches $4.95 trillion.

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