Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Democrats decry rising cost of wars

HIDDEN COSTS A new study says higher oil prices and wounded veterans' medical bills bring the cost of the Afghan and Iraqi wars to double White House estimates

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND BAGHDAD

A new study by congressional Democrats says "hidden costs" have driven the price of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to about US$1.5 trillion, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

That figure is nearly double the US$804 billion the White House has spent or requested, according to the report by the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee, which examines the hidden costs of the wars, the Post said.

According to the panel, the hidden costs include higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on money borrowed to pay for the wars, the paper said.

The report was expected to be presented on Capitol Hill yesterday.

A 21-page draft obtained by the newspaper estimates that the wars have cost the average US family of four more than US$20,000, the Post said.

The study concludes that the cost to the average US family could more than double, to US$46,300, over the next decade, with estimated economic costs to the US reaching US$3.5 trillion if the conflicts continue at their current pace, the Post said.

The Post said the report estimated that war injuries could add more than US$30 billion in future disability and medical care costs, including billions in lost earnings for veterans who cannot work because of post-traumatic stress.

Members of the panel's Republican staff could not be reached for comment, the Post said.

The newspaper cited war funding experts as saying that some of the numbers in the report should be met with skepticism.

The experts said it is difficult to calculate the precise impact of the Iraq war on global oil prices. They also said it was speculative to estimate how much the war will cost over time because situations change daily on the battlefield, the Post reported.

ELECTION CALL

Meanwhile, A key ally of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called yesterday for Iraq's parliament to be dissolved and new elections held.

Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker from al-Sadr's 30-member bloc, told reporters in Baghdad that the parliament has "become a burden on the Iraqi people rather than an institution to solve their problems and offer services."

"The parliament has become a very weak institution because of the way the elections took place, especially in Anbar and Mosul and some other southern provinces. I call for revising the election law," al-Araji said.

He said he was expressing his own views, and not speaking for his parliamentary bloc.

The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2009.

Al-Araji is a prominent member of al-Sadr's bloc, and is also known for a militia he keeps in northwest Baghdad. His group is accused of involvement in attacks on US forces and the forced removal of Sunnis from western Baghdad.

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