NICHOLAS KRISTOF: The improvement is real but fragile and limited. Here’s what it amounts to: We’ve cut our casualty rates to the unacceptable levels that plagued us back in 2005, and we still don’t have any exit plan for years to come — all for a bill that is accumulating at the rate of almost $5,000 every second!
Granted, the cost estimates are squishy and controversial, partly because the $12.5 billion a month that we’re now paying for Iraq is only a down payment. We’ll still be making disability payments to Iraq war veterans 50 years from now. Professor Stiglitz calculates in a new book, written with Linda Bilmes of Harvard University, that the total costs, including the long-term bills we’re incurring, amount to about $25 billion a month.
Moreover, the Bush administration has financed this war in a way that undermines our national security — by borrowing. Forty percent of the increased debt will be held by China and other foreign countries. “This is the first major war in American history where all the additional cost was paid for by borrowing,” Mr. Hormats notes. MORE
ASSOCIATED PRESS: A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000. The grim milestone came on a day when at least 61 people were killed across the country. Rockets and mortars pounded the U.S.-protected Green Zone, underscoring the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups despite an overall lull in violence.